Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Massachusetts mirrors our future under ObamaCare

Despite Mitt Romney's claims that his plan was quite different from Obama's plan, they are quite similar, as Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute lays out,
Both have an individual mandate requiring most residents to have health insurance or pay a penalty. Most businesses are required to participate or pay a fine. Both rely on government-designed purchasing exchanges that also provide a platform to control private health insurance. Many of the uninsured are covered through Medicaid expansion and others receive subsidies for highly-prescriptive policies. And the apparatus requires a plethora of new government boards and agencies.
While we're debating over ObamaCare, let's take a look at a very similar plan that has been in place in Massachusetts. The problems with Massachusetts health care plan are so very apparent. Costs are increasing and they're breaking the state budget. Contrary to predictions about what would happen if people were given health insurance, emergency room use has increased since the introduction of the health care plan that Mitt Romney championed and signed.
Mr. Romney's promise that getting everyone covered would force costs down also is far from being realized. One third of state residents polled by Harvard researchers in a study published in "Health Affairs" in 2008 said that their health costs had gone up as a result of the 2006 reforms. A typical family of four today faces total annual health costs of nearly $13,788, the highest in the country. Per capita spending is 27% higher than the national average.

The state's stubbornly high health costs are partly the result of intrusive government regulations that stifle competition in the insurance market and strict mandates on what services insurance must cover. A 2008 study by the Massachusetts Division of Health Care Finance and Policy found that the state's most expensive insurance mandates cost patients more than $1 billion between July 2004 and July 2005. The Massachusetts health reform law left all of them in place.

Further, insurance companies are required to sell "just-in-time" policies even if people wait until they are sick to buy coverage. That's just like the Obama plan. There is growing evidence that many people are gaming the system by purchasing health insurance when they need surgery or other expensive medical care, then dropping it a few months later.

Some Massachusetts safety-net hospitals that treat a disproportionate number of lower-income and uninsured patients are threatening bankruptcy. They still are treating a large number of people without health insurance, but the payments they receive for uncompensated care have been cut under the reform deal.

The Bay State is also suffering from what the Massachusetts Medical Society calls a "critical shortage" of primary-care physicians. As one would expect, expanded insurance has caused an increase in demand for medical services. But there hasn't been a corresponding increase in the number of doctors. As a result, many patients are insured in name only: They have health coverage but can't find a doctor.

Fifty-six percent of Massachusetts internal medicine physicians no longer are accepting new patients, according to a 2009 physician work-force study conducted by the Massachusetts Medical Society. For new patients who do get an appointment with a primary-care doctor, the average waiting time is 44 days, the Medical Society found.
Meahwhile, the State Treasurer of Massachusetts, Timothy Cahill, called a press conference yesterday to explain to people that the Massachusetts health care plan is going broke and is only being propped up by federal grants. He accuses the Obama and Deval Patrick administrations of funneling money into Massachusetts to help the program stay afloat while ObamaCare is being debated.

And this is what is in store for all of us if the Democrats push this through.