Massachusetts Task Force Recommends ‘Incremental’ Approach in Addressing State’s Uninsured
A 43-member task force that is investigating Massachusetts' "health care woes" has rejected a proposal for a state-run entity to provide universal health care to all residents, instead choosing to back "incremental improvements" to provide insurance for 365,000 uninsured residents, the State House News Service/Boston Herald reports. Last week, state voters rejected Question 5, a ballot initiative that would have required lawmakers to draft a plan to provide universal health care. The task force noted that the initiative's "narrow" defeat "is an indication that residents are happy with employer-based health care and government programs designed to provide insurance to the poor, elderly, disabled and children." Health care consultant Susan Connolly said the group "is hopeful that the private marketplace will come up with some more affordable products, and that the state take steps to encourage the development of those innovative products." Gov. Paul Cellucci (R), also a task force member, supported the group's decision. Touting the state's Medicaid and CHIP programs, which are combined into one program called MassHealth, he said, "I really do believe that if we aggressively continue to sign these kids up, we will get as close to zero as humanly possible." The task force also is exploring other options, such as medical savings accounts, giving bigger tax credits to employers who assist their employees with insurance costs and requiring companies who do business with the state to provide insurance for their employees. The task force is expected to propose "an array of recommendations" by the end of the year (State House News Service/Boston Herald, 11/13). Health insurers and employers alike have expressed relief over the universal health initiative's failure, the Boston Business Journal reports. Richard Lord, president of the trade group Associated Industries of Massachusetts and chair of the No on 5 campaign committee, said, "Obviously, we're enormously pleased that the voters in Massachusetts rejected Question 5. We felt all along this extreme measure would have serious consequences." To "warn" area companies of potential "hikes" in their insurance premiums, the No on 5 coalition raised $4.8 million and recruited "industry insiders" for ads (Mason/Connolly, Boston Business Journal, 11/13). Boston Panel to Examine Health Service Closures In other Massachusetts health care news, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (D) on Nov. 13 "pledged" to create a panel "to try to stop the closure of necessary health care services" in the city, the Boston Herald reports. Menino said "one of his primary concerns" is ensuring that "people can get the care they need." He noted that individuals' access is "threatened" by services' closure, such as the recently announced elimination of inpatient psychiatric beds at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The mayor's 13-member Health Care Financing Task Force recommended the panel's creation, along with four other options, such as using city resources to recruit more health care workers and lobbying for additional state and federal funds (Powell, Boston Herald, 11/14).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.