Is the Massachusetts attempt at universal health insurance "centrist"? That's how the Boston Globe described it December 19. Citing its "national appeal," the article noted support from Sen. Ted Kennedy, who is expected to lead the Senate effort on health reform.
"To those who say these challenges can't be met, I say, 'Look at Massachusetts,'" he said in a statement.
But as the Galen Institute's Grace-Marie Turner points out, the Massachusetts mandate has been fraught with problems.
In addition to the worsening of a primary care doctor shortage and long patient waiting times, costs continue to be a major problem with the system. With state officials controlling premium prices, many health insurance plans have little choice but to cut back on benefits to make the numbers work.
The majority of the newly insured are covered through taxpayer-subsidized plans or mid-sized employers who now are mandated to provide or pay for coverage for their workers. And speaking of the newly insured, where did all these people come from? As Turner comments:
"Massachusetts says it has reduced its uninsured rate to 2.6%, but we're still trying to find out where those mysterious 100,000 newly insured people came from -- just about the time the state was trying to convince Washington to release $21 billion in Medicaid money to fund the program over three years."
Yet the Globe overlooked most of the tough questions, describing it in more glowing terms: "Massachusetts leaders made sure that people who liked their coverage could keep it, and they built consensus among a web of healthcare interests to create a new safety net for the uninsured."