10 Myths (& Facts) About the Massachusetts Healthcare Model

by admin on February 11, 2010

Massachusetts HealthcareThe debate over universal healthcare is still raging in the United States. There are many different (and often conflicting) viewpoints, from the extremely conservative, to the radically liberal, on what is the best course of action to take. Unfortunately, there is also a significant amount of misinformation surrounding the healthcare debate. This information is especially apparent when it comes to the Massachusetts Healthcare Model. Being the first state to try to institute a universal healthcare policy, both the pros and cons of Massachusetts’ policy have been documented, although sometimes inaccurately. Here is a list of 10 common myths about the Massachusetts Healthcare Model.

    • MythHealthcare reform costs in Massachusetts are causing significant damage to an already fragile state budget.
    • Fact — While reform certainly isn’t free, the increased costs to the state budget aren’t so significant that the state budget has been utterly decimated. Additionally, because Massachusetts already had $700 million set aside for the Uncompensated Care Pool, this budget has been applied to the universal healthcare initiatives in order to offset costs.
    • Individual Premiums RisingMythSince it is more cost-effective, many businesses have decided to drop healthcare coverage for employees, opting to simply pay the fines.
    • Fact — The fines now levied upon businesses that don’t offer enough employees healthcare coverage are actually substantial enough to encourage some businesses to continue to offer their employees options. Since Massachusetts reform, 72% of businesses offer their employees some type of health insurance, which is significantly above the national number, which is only around 60%. To be fair, however, because of the recent economic downturn, there will certainly be companies who stop offering as great a number of employees insurance.
    • MythSince reform, Massachusetts has had an extreme shortage of primary care physicians (PCPs).
    • Fact — One of the biggest worries about healthcare reform is a lack of incentives for persons to become doctors because of potential lower wages and no financial rewards for being the best at an area of health. However, Massachusetts has maintained one of the highest ratios of PCPs to population in the entire United States. Recent data shows that there are more than 125 PCPs per 100,000 people.
    • Employer ContributionsMythMost of the burden for healthcare reform is being borne by businesses, which hurts the economy.
    • Fact — The goal of healthcare reform in Massachusetts was to share the financial responsibility amongst employers, the government, and individuals. Thus far, this has actually been the case, according to a study by the Center for Health Law and Economics at The University of Massachusetts. The study showed that each sector has had the same amount of financial responsibility post-reform as they did before.
    • MythThere are still many uninsured Massachusetts residents, too many to justify calling reform a, “success.”
    • Fact — Since reform was implemented, well over 430,000 Massachusetts residents have been newly insured. A staggering 44% of those newly insured have received private health plans. In fact, 97% of Massachusetts residents are now insured, which is well above percentages in other states. Ostensibly, this would certainly indicate that reform has been somewhat successful in achieving its goal of helping those without coverage.
    • MythDespite so-called successes, there is still a significant amount of opposition to healthcare reform in Massachusetts.
    • Fact — Despite Scott Brown’s “universal healthcare killing” victory, support for the healthcare system within Massachusetts still remains substantially high. Statistically speaking, seven out of 10 Massachusetts residents have a favorable view of healthcare reform.
    • MythWith public options available, a “crowd out” will occur, shifting insurance from the private to the public sector.
    • Fact — This has not occurred even slightly. The goal of the Massachusetts Healthcare Model is to make sure that employers are encouraged to offer private insurance options, while persons who are unemployed, or have difficulty finding private coverage, can use a public option. As mentioned before, almost half of the newly insured under this plan have gotten coverage through a private insurer, proving that the “crowd out” is indeed a myth.
    • Spending MoneyMythThe current reformed healthcare system is not financially sustainable and will result in increased defecits over time.
    • Fact — With federal assistance, and current offsets in full swing, the plan has thus-far proven to be quite sustainable over the long term. So far, healthcare reform has only comprised 1% of Massachusetts’ yearly budget. As efficiencies are improved, it is reasonable to conclude that this shouldn’t increase significantly, perhaps even declining.
    • MythThe primary care workforce will be unable to keep pace with increased demand, which will lead to a labor shortage crisis.
    • Fact — While it is certainly true that there have been well-documented reports of extremely busy clinics with significant wait times, leaders have been working tirelessly to increase the primary care workforce numbers. With new federal grants and scholarships becoming available to students interested in entering the healthcare career field, as well as increased incentives for persons to advance their careers, shortages could conceivably decline rather significantly in the long run. A recent study showed that Massachusetts residents have better access to primary care physicians than residents of most other states; with 91% responding they have a physician they are able to see regularly, as opposed to only 86% nationally.
    • Universal Healthcare DebateMythMassachusetts Healthcare Reform is not a practical model to consider when debating nationalized universal healthcare.
    • Fact — As the results show, Massachusetts has had overwhelming success lowering the amount of uninsured in the state to below 2.6%. Private insurance companies have still been able to function and insure persons, while businesses haven’t been bankrupt, or driven out, by what they must pay in terms of health care costs. While the model certainly still needs tweaks, implementation should continue to improve over time.
  1. The health care debate is extremely important to society for a variety of reasons. The health of future generations, the rising medical costs in the country, and the quality of life of Americans hangs in the balance. Massachusetts has set a standard with its healthcare policies, making sure that almost all of its residents are covered with some type of health insurance. There are many challenges that Massachusetts still faces, and challenges for a Federal universal healthcare bill are even greater. The fact remains, however, that it is certainly possible to implement.

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