Has Massachusetts Created a Model for Universal Healthcare?
The debate has raged for years on how to best address the problem of uninsured and underinsured Americans. With the lack of cooperation between liberals and conservatives and far and away different ideas on who should be responsible for providing affordable or low cost health insurance to the growing population without it, progress on this issue has all but come to a screeching halt. However with the shift in power in the congress, things may again start to move forward, and the plan recently initiated by the State of Massachusetts may prove a viable model of what is to come.
The legislation passed in Massachusetts as sweeping health insurance reform represents a true bi-partisan effort in a state that is known for its liberal politics, so if it can be accomplished there, similar access to cost effective health insurance should be possible nationwide. The idea that fuses both liberal and conservative concepts mandates that all people carry health insurance just as states require that all persons have automobile insurance. The plan provides for large subsidies to help those who cannot afford health insurance and requires that any company with more then 11 workers on payroll must provide medical coverage. Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA, an organization that advocates for healthcare consumers says, "This is an historic precedent that creates a partnership involving the public and private sector, as well as employers and individuals. Mr. Pollack and many others see the Massachusetts plan as a model for other states and maybe even for the nation. Several governors are already reviewing the plan and Former Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican who signed the bill into law - who is planning a run for the White House in 2008 - expects to make it one of the cornerstones of his campaign. Other Massachusetts legislators are saying that the "eyes of the nation are upon us". Massachusetts which has lead the nation in such controversial issues as Gay Marriage, now is taking the first real steps towards providing access to health and medical coverage for all citizens, and proving that it is possible to make politicians on both sides of the aisle, insures, consumers and healthcare providers come together for the good of all concerned.
The plan divides those without health insurance in Massachusetts into three groups, which roughly represent the same breakdown of the 45 Million Americans currently without health insurance. Those who qualify for Medicaid but have failed to apply for some reason or another, those who do not qualify for Medicaid yet are still to poor to afford health coverage - which incidentally makes up the largest group in the 45 Million nationwide without insurance - and those that do not qualify in either of the other two groups but have not yet purchased an individual medical insurance plan. Under the program the first two groups will be taken care of through the in place Government programs and large subsidies. The uniquely interesting part of the Massachusetts plan is that it is making it far easier then ever before for that third group to find and purchase individual health insurance, by offering incentives to the insurance companies and stiff penalties for consumers who do not comply with the mandate.