In 2006, Massachusetts enacted a law requiring that all residents obtain health insurance.
Ever since, developments there have been watched closely since what happens in the state might play out nationally should the Great American Health Care Do-Over include an individual mandate.
Unfortunately, the Bay State’s program has been plagued by unsustainable cost escalations since Day 1, and the situation has been exacerbated recently by recession-related budget shortfalls and rising unemployment.
It was a matter of time before cuts had to be made, and that happened yesterday when state policymakers announced they’re cutting $115 million, or 12% from the budget of Commonwealth Care, a centerpiece of the state’s initiative which subsidizes premiums for poor residents.
The cuts amount to a forced slowdown in Commonwealth Care enrollment. According to the Boston Globe, about 18,000 residents who qualify for subsidies but who have not designated a health plan will no longer be automatically enrolled in program.
Tentative cuts in dental coverage for 92,000 Commonwealth Care enrollees and health insurance for 28,000 legal immigrants have also been proposed, although these proposals must be approved by governor Deval Patrick.
He has until Monday to decide.
Commonwealth Care currently has 177,000 members. It’s projected to have 212,000 by year end, 2010.
“No decision has been made’’ on the immigrant coverage issue, Leslie Kirwan, Patrick’s secretary of administration and finance told the Globe. “It’s certainly going to be at the top of the list’’ of items Patrick might restore to the budget, she added.
Leaders of Health Care for All, a Bay State consumer group, said the proposal would be tough on non-English-speaking residents who find it hard to navigate the complex enrollment process for Commonwealth Care.
“My concern is people will not get the care they need,’’ lamented the group’s representative, Lindsey Tucker to the Globe.