As a result of their remarkable 3-year effort, Massachusetts lawmakers increased by 430,000 the number of people with health insurance in the state.
That leaves only 2.6% of Bay Staters uninsured, which is one-sixth the national average and by far the lowest rate in the nation.
Not only that, the legislators, working in synchrony with then Governor Mitt Romney, enacted the law faster than a Harvard Club Eight.
They pulled off the coup by deferring for another day the matter of controlling health care cost escalations which everyone knew would accompany the move.
That other day is here.
Massachusetts will spend $600 million more in 2009 on health insurance than it did in 2006, a 42% bump.
So Governor Deval Patrick has decided to completely overhaul the process by which the state’s insurers reimburse providers.
His proposal emphasizes prevention and chronic disease management in lieu of the current system, which pays fee for service.
If he pulls it off, the achievement would be every bit as audacious as the universal coverage plan itself.
Massachusetts after all, boasts more physicians per capita than any other state, and its vaunted academic medical centers have cut sweet deals with insurers.
Patrick recently chided the latter. “Frankly,” he told the New York Times, “it’s hard for the average consumer to understand how some of these companies can have the margins they do and the annual increases in premiums that they do.”
Patrick’s persuasive powers have worked, at least temporarily. Insurers who want in on the state’s subsidized insurance program submitted bids for 2009 that were so low, officials reported they can keep premiums flat this year.
But policy experts argue that to truly control cost escalations, government needs to cap budgets and yes, ration care.
“Really controlling costs requires just stopping spending,” Brandeis health policy expert Stuart Altman told the Times.