Universal Care Plan Up for Vote in Massachusetts
On Nov. 7, Massachusetts residents will decide the fate of Question 5, the "controversial" ballot initiative that would establish universal health coverage and a "host of far-reaching health care reforms," the Boston Globe reports. If approved, Question 5 would require universal care by July 2002, impose a variety of HMO reforms, allow patients to choose their own physician, temporarily ban for-profit health companies from entering the state and prohibit HMOs from spending more than 10% of their revenue on administrative costs and executive salaries (Mishra, Boston Globe, 11/1). While the initiative is still "faring well in polls," much of Question 5's support has been eradicated by an expensive ad campaign by the HMO industry. Opponents are concerned that Question 5's enactment would increase health costs, strain HMOs and increase the number of uninsured. By Oct. 15, HMOs had given $2.8 million to the No on 5 Coalition, with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts contributing $1.25 million. The Massachusetts Medical Society, which represents 17,000 physicians, also opposes Question 5. However, the Globe reports that "not a penny" of the money given to No on 5 as of Oct. 15 was from a doctor or hospital (Mooney, Boston Globe, 11/1). On the other side, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) said last week that he intends to vote for the measure. Noting his "lifetime political mission of establishing universal health care," Kennedy said that Question 5 "will carry beyond [Massachusetts'] borders." He added, "Massachusetts has led the nation on many health care issues. ... It's time for us to lead again" (Mishra, Boston Globe, 11/1). Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader also backed the measure last week, saying, "I think we are in a real transition period here that gives us a great opportunity to recast our health care system into a not-for-profit mode and expand to universal health care" (Heldt Powell, Boston Herald, 11/1).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.