The Massachusetts Miracle: Romney’s Health Care Reform Plan Works

It’s too bad former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney doesn’t want to talk about his state’s health care reform legislation on the campaign trail. If he did, he’d have a pretty good story to tell.

The reform plan, which President Obama used as a model for the national reform, lifted the number of insured residents in the Bay State from 86.6 percent in 2006 to 94.2 percent in 2010, according to a new study published yesterday by Health Affairs.

An expansion of public programs didn’t account for the gains. The number of people with employer-based coverage rose to 68 percent of the adult population in 2010 from 64.4 percent four years earlier. This is exactly the opposite of what many business groups are claiming will happen after the national reform goes into effect in 2014.

Moreover, out-of-pocket expenses declined for the average beneficiary. The number of people reporting they paid 10 percent of their family income on health care fell from 9.8 percent to 6.1 percent over the four years. Again, early fears that the Massachusetts reform would lead to a major shift in costs to consumers have not panned out.

However, the out-of-paycheck share of insurance premiums for family coverage did rise 10.1 percent over the period. But even that is pretty good news. The 2 ½%-a-year average increase is significantly below the rest of the nation’s rise in insurance costs. Still, the authors of the study concluded that “affordability of health care remains a challenge as the Bay State, like the rest of the nation, continues to struggle with rising health care costs.”

True enough. But the state is doing much better than average in terms of affordability. And it leads the nation in terms of access to insured care for its citizens.

Romney says every state should have a choice in how it tackles the problem of insuring the uninsured while lowering costs. If pressed for a good example of what works and what doesn’t, he might want to point to his own handiwork.

Merrill Goozner has been writing about economics and health care for many years. The former chief economics correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, Merrill has written for a long list of publications including the New York Times, The American Prospect, The Washington Post and The Fiscal Times. You can read more pieces by him at GoozNews.

15 replies »

  1. Don’t read these stats from the author of the post, if Mr Nate is correct, eh?

    Pandering to an audience just to sell a person is really pathetic, but, aren’t politicians just that these days? Isn’t the GOP primary becoming a comedian’s paradise for fodder? Why do moderate independent thinkers like me have to put up with these two failed party system slimeballs.

    Obama versus Romney or Gingrich? Sheesh, it would be a bit fun if it was Heckyl versus Jeckyl, but, that is a comedy act. This is serious leadership choice here. From less than serious choices!

    But, my buddy George C was right, it is about garbage in, and garbage out every four years. Unfortunately, we the citizens are left with having to drag this stench baggage out and soil our yards for what could be an eternity. PPACA and Massa2shits health care, what a freakin legacy!!!

  2. “Works” apparently means “someone else pays for it and I’m happy about that”.

    Every wealth transfer in the world is popular among the recipients.

  3. Is he talking about the same MA with the highest health insurance premiums in the world?

    Is it really affordable if your borrowing to pay for it? When the money runs out then what, and that would be yesterday it ran out.


    Looking ahead to the fiscal challenges the Commonwealth faces in FY 2013, our Budget Preview shows that the budget deficit will be well over $1 billion

    The 50 largest cities and towns in Massachusetts face a crushing $20 billion liability for retiree health care benefits that threatens to wreak havoc with local government services, according to a new report released today by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.

    The report, Retiree Health Care: The Brick That Broke Municipalities’ Backs, is the first analysis of municipal retiree health care liabilities in Massachusetts. The $20 billion represents what these governments must pay in today’s dollars for the lifetime health care benefits already earned by 150,000 current employees and retirees in the 50 communities.

    States with the most debt, and #2 is…….

    #2, Massachusetts
    Debt 2010: $79.06 billion

    Pre-budget Deficit 2011: $2.70 billion

    GDP 2009: $381.31 billion

    Debt/GDP Ratio: 20.73 percent

    On the chopping block: MassHealth, the state’s health program for low-income residents, has had nearly $850 million cut from its budget since 2009. The biggest chunk—$600 million—comes out of provider reimbursements, followed by $140 million cut to serve qualified legal immigrants and $56.3 million used to cover adult oral care. The state is responsible for about half of MassHealth’s budget.

    raging success lets all chase MA right off the cliff

  4. How about a transparent disclaimer what the writer’s political agenda is?

    Again, people who rally behind a speaker without giving any substance to what is the goal of the speech/defense is fairly hollow praise and support.

    Oh yeah, once again, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

    Doesn’t anyone who is really paying attention to this crap get tired of it!? And I truly mean by both parties, or, rather that same old beast of Republocrats that really run the show. And their lame choir.

  5. “What are the real, honest, objective numbers from Massachusetts these days?” Umm, all over the article?

    Oh, that’s right, if you don’t agree with “facts”, then they can’t possibly be. After all, reality has a well-known liberal bias.

  6. Premiums ARE addressed later in the piece. The author discussed both the printer and the ink. While you are right that both are important, it is appropriate to discuss them separately as they have different impacts on different consumers.

  7. Jared I believe the answer is Medicare recipients, medical device companies, pharma, and you.

  8. So when we fully implement PPACA, who will subsidize the United States in the way that the federal government has subsidized Massachusetts during this experiment–the Chinese?

  9. Merrill,
    I think you may be a little off the mark here citing the Health Affairs article of phone survey data as proof that all things are rosy in Massachusetts.
    For example, the study has a very odd way to define affordability: “…there have been gains in the affordability of care for adults since 2006, as evident in a lower burden from out-of-pocket health care spending (excluding premiums)…”

    Why would you exclude premiums in your definition? This exclusion is like celebrating a decrease in the price of printer ink while ignoring the increase in the price of the actual printer. A much more robust discussion is needed before concluding the plan is all good or all bad.

  10. Umm, this is supposed to be an unbiased objective piece? Gee, the writer’s long list of publications he has written for don’t come across as being so politically moderate. And I would say the same thing if the post was from a republican hack as well.

    A dumbed down citizenry would not know better if their alleged leaders kept telling them the sand they are drinking is the water they seek.

    What are the real, honest, objective numbers from Massachusetts these days? Is there a source interested in the public well being and not a party platitude or agenda who can give the answer? I don’t hear the growing sounds of glee and joy from up north of late. Has someone turned the volume down?


  11. With Newt having publicly supported the mandate as recently as May 2009, and with the Federal plan being modeled after Romney-care, the only way these two can differentiate themselves on this issue that is so visceral to the those on the right who suffer from ODS (Obama Derangement Syndrome) is to lie about themselves, and then turn the President into something completely different than he is. Take the Affordable Care Act – it was amended over 1,000 times, including hundreds of Amendments proposed by GOP Senators that were allowed to be voted upon, and many of which were adopted. But then, when it came time to vote on it, every single GOPP member voted no, so that they could say it was not bi-partisan. Forget hundreds and hundreds of GOP amendments, it was “rammed through” according to those who had no intention of ever letting it pass. GOP abuse of the filibuster, hundreds of millions spent lobbying and advertising against health care reform — even a privately based system, demagagued as a “government takeover.”

    You can’t win against an imaginary opponent, through lie after lie after lie, and without owning up to your own contributions to the recession and credit collapse in 2007-2008. The GOP is destined to lose big this year, as punishment for rank dishonesty, greed, hatred and a gross lack of self-awareness or humility. Good riddance.

  12. If Romney actually looked and spoke about the Massachusetts health care insurance reform he helped pass into law honestly, he’d be the Democratic and not Republican nominee for President. The message that a stronger government role in addressing health insurance market issues works better than unfettered free markets doesn’t play well in Republican circles these days.

  13. But that would require him to be honest – which he appears to be constitutionally incapable of.