You don't say.
Starting January 1, 2008 Massachusetts residents face fines if they cannot offer proof of insurance. Yet as of December 1, 2007 only 37% of the 657,000 uninsured had gained coverage under the new program. These individuals often feel well served by the reform in that they now have health insurance. However, 79% of these newly insured individuals are very poor people enrolled in Medicaid or similar free plans. Virtually all of them were previously eligible for completely free care funded by the state, but face co-payments under the new plan. In effect, public funds for care of the poor that previously flowed directly to hospitals and clinics now flow through insurers with their higher administrative costs.
Among the near poor uninsured (who are eligible for partial premium subsidies) only 16% had enrolled in the new coverage. And barely 7% of the uninsured individuals with incomes too high to qualify for subsidies had enrolled according to the official state figures. Few can afford premiums for even the skimpiest coverage; the lowest cost plan offered for a couple in their fifties costs $8,200 annually, and carries a $2,000 per person deductible.
Moreover, the state's cost for subsidies is running $147 million over the $472 million budgeted for fiscal year 2007. Meanwhile, collections from fines on employers who fail to provide coverage are 80% below the original projections. The funding gap will widen in future years as health care costs escalate and insurers raise premiums. Already, state officials speak of making up the shortfall by forcing patients to pay sharply higher co-pays and deductibles, and by slashing funds promised to safety net hospitals.
While patients, the state and safety net providers struggle, private insurers have prospered under the new law, and the costs of bureaucracy have risen. Blue Cross, the state's largest insurer, is reaping a surplus of more than $1 million each day, and awarded its chairman a $16.4 million retirement bonus even as he continues to draw a $3 million salary. All of the major insurers in our state continue to charge overhead costs five times higher than Medicare and eleven-fold higher than Canada's single payer system.