KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Study: Massachusetts Health Reform Popular With Doctors, Doesn’t Hold Costs Down

"The first broad-based survey of how physicians feel about the Massachusetts experiment shows strong and deep support: 70 percent favor the law; three-quarters want to keep it," NPR reports. "Only 7 percent would repeal the law, and it's hard to find a doctor to say so publicly, says a spokesman for the Massachusetts Medical Society."

"The thing doctors like most about the Massachusetts law is, perhaps not surprisingly, that fewer of their patients are uninsured, says Robert Blendon of the Harvard School of Public Health. He and his colleagues conducted the poll for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation." But doctors express some concerns about their jobs: "Half say things at their practice have gotten worse over the past three years. But only 11 percent say the health law was to blame" (Knox, 10/21).

The Christian Science Monitor reports on the lessons and warnings that the Massachusetts experiment holds for national health reform. "A mandate on individuals to buy health insurance can work – just don't expect it to reduce the cost of care." Health policy experts generally agree that a "mandate for individuals to buy insurance can be imposed without causing havoc," "hospitals and individuals have adapted," and "employers haven't dropped the health plans they sponsor." But they also agree that "the mandate, while expanding coverage to many uninsured, doesn't solve the deeper problem of escalating healthcare costs."

Meanwhile, "[o]n access to care, Massachusetts can claim big strides but not truly universal coverage. Some 97 percent of residents have insurance, according to the Connector, the state-run exchange for buying insurance. That's well above any other state. Nationwide, 85 percent of Americans are insured." Affordability remains an issue: "Health coverage is hard for many residents here to afford, just as in other states." Cost controls may be "the next phase of reform" (Trumbull, 10/21).

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