Sunday, March 04, 2007

Massachusetts Health Care Initiative Moves Forward

The Massachusetts health care initiative appears to be moving forward. And, in a story about the negotiations with health insurers, Governor Deval Patrick estimates that the cost to insure the average uninsured Bay State resident could be less than half of the originally projected amount. Yahoo News AP wire story:

BOSTON - The average uninsured Massachusetts resident could obtain health care coverage for as little as $175 a month under the state's insurance law, less than half of earlier estimates, officials said Saturday.

The plans are a critical piece of the state's landmark insurance initiative, which requires all state residents to have health coverage by July 1 or face tax penalties. Some insurers had suggested earlier that the premium would be $380 a month.

Question: Who is liable for this tax penalty? The individual, or, assuming he or she has a job, the employer?

"This is a big improvement from the first round of bids and a big step forward for health care reform," Gov. Deval Patrick said as he released the results of negotiations with health insurers in the state. "The health security that was the point of health care reform will be delivered at an affordable price."

The panel charged with overseeing the law is expected to give its seal of approval Wednesday to the seven health care plans that met the affordability goals. On March 20, the board is scheduled to vote on whether the insurers will be able to offer lower cost versions without drug coverage.

The minimum plan detailed by Patrick would cover the average uninsured Massachusetts resident, who is typically around 37 years old. It includes prescription drug coverage and covers basic medical care, such as emergency room visits and outpatient medical care.

Lower cost plans would be available to young adults. Prices would also rise and fall depending on the age of the person seeking insurance and where they live.

The plans must include coverage for preventive doctor visits and an out-of-pocket limit, after which the plan would pay everything else, said the board's executive director, Jon Kingsdale. They must also include coverage for emergencies, mental health, substance abuse, rehabilitation, hospice and vision.

This looks promising. Having gone more than two years without health insurance, the result of having my wage slave position downsized during the last days of the first Bush mis-administration, I can tell you it is no fun to worry about how you will pay for medical care if you get sick or injured. I was lucky. I was on the cusp of 30, and in good health (and I still am), so I didn't think much about it, but a lot of other folks, mostly older and less able physically, did not share such luck. Maybe I'm crazy, but I don't think you should have to sell all your assets to pay for crucial health maintenance, as many have had to do in this richest, most medically advanced nation in the world.

It is long past the time for this type of reform. If the gutless Democrats hadn't been so eager to distance themselves from Bill Clinton in 4 PML (Pre-Monica Lewinsky), Hillary's national health plan might have had a fighting chance, but now it looks as if we'll have to wait until at least 2009 for her to get to show us what we could have had for the past dozen years. As for what is happening here in my Commonwealth, we'll see what happens on March 20th, and go from there.

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