09 February 2008

Mass Gov Looks to Single-Payer

The Berkshire Eagle reports that regarding Massachusetts' mandated insurance scheme, Governor Deval Patrick says:
"the rate of increase in premiums is a serious problem for the state system and for private individuals, families and businesses as well. . . and there's a view out there that as long as private insurance is a part of health-care reform, we're never really going to break the back of the pattern." He called for serious consideration of a single-payer universal health care solution by the next administration in Washington.
The paper cited a series from the Boston Globe outlining the state's problems with their new system, which forces people to buy private insurance. In particular, the Berkshire paper noted,
Patrick inherited inaccurate assumptions about the cost of state-subsidized health insurance from the Romney administration, which created the program along with Beacon Hill lawmakers. (It's laughable whenever the presidential flunk-out blasts "Hillary Care" as socialized medicine, since it's based largely on "Romney Care.") Patrick's budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year includes $400 million in extra health care spending — taxpayers would be responsible for nearly half of that, with the federal government counted on to supply the rest.

With the Bush administration now seeking massive cuts in health-care and other non-military spending, the immediate prospect of relief from Washington looks bleak. A McCain presidency would amount to a Bush third term when it comes to domestic spending. A Clinton or Obama administration would produce a sea-change, but it's unlikely the federal government will be in a position to bail out Massachusetts if health care insurance spending spirals out of control.


The state program is run by the Commonwealth Connector, which hooks up uninsured residents with the appropriate coverage. Jon Kingsdale, head of the program, told The Globe in no uncertain terms: "This is not sustainable if we don't deal with affordability." Proposed solutions are vague or half-baked at this point, ranging from a $1-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax (a great idea anyway) to help fund the state's health program to plans by a pharmacy chain to put affordable clinics in its stores to deal with basic maladies (a highly-debatable idea). Down the road, tighter regulation of hospital fees and insurance rates may have to be considered.

To put it simply, unless and until the cost of health care — much of it administrative, tied to the bureaucratic jungle of dealing with private insurance carriers — is contained and reduced, the Massachusetts reform program is in jeopardy. And this would bode ill for any universal health care program, with or without mandates, nationwide.

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