Feb 9, 2012
In 2006, under then Governor Mitt Romney, Massachusetts created a universal health care system that would become the template for the health care reform bill signed into law by President Obama in 2010. But while the national universal health care won’tt go into effect until 2014, the Massachusetts law has been in effect for 5 years. Their experience can provide an indication of how President Obama’s health care reform will work. So how has universal health care worked in Massachusetts?
According to a new study in Health Affairs, there have been many improvements in access and care quality under the Massachusetts law. 94 percent of non-elderly adults had coverage in 2010, up from 88 percent in 2005. Out-of-pocket charges for consumers have also fallen, with 6.1 percent of families reporting to have spent 10 percent of their paycheck on health care in 2010. This is down from 9.8 percent in 2006.
This expansion of coverage and cuts in out-pocket costs have allowed more consumer to get needed care. Non-elderly adult in 2010 were more likely to receive preventative care, dental care, and have a usual place to go to when sick or in need of health advice. There was also a drop in emergency room visits, as people were able to get timely access to care and avoid costly emergency medical situation. This increased access to care has improved the self reported health statuses of Massachusetts residents. 65 percent of non-elderly adults reported being in good or excellent health, up from 59 percent in 2006.
The bad news is that Massachusetts has been unable to avoid the problem of rising health care costs that has plagued the rest of the country. Recent reform proposed by current Governor Deval Patrick mirror many of the cost control ideas included in President Obama’s health care reform. A move from fee-for-service payments to doctor, which encourages doctors to do more, to a “global payment system” which will encourage doctors to coordinate and provide more cost effective care. Gov. Patrick has also proposed more incentives to form Accountable Care Organizations, organizations of doctors and nurses that will cut down on duplicated care and allow for better coordination between providers. This is an idea that has been championed by the Obama Administration.