Bay Staters Feel Impact of New Law Mandating Insurance Coverage

Published August 1, 2006

Massachusetts’ new “Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority”–the agency charged with enforcing the new law mandating every state resident get health insurance–held its first meeting June 7 and is already talking about how to restrict access to care.

According to a June 8 Boston Globe article, the state’s assistant director of Medicaid, Brian Wheelan, told the group that delivering an underweight baby costs $1,800 at Cambridge’s Mount Auburn Hospital but $5,300 at Massachusetts General Hospital. Both hospitals are affiliated with Harvard University.

“Wheelan said defining provider networks, which mandate which hospitals patients can use, could generate enormous savings,” the paper reported. And away we go. The “Authority” will substitute its judgment for that of physicians and patients when picking hospitals.

Granted, some facilities cost a lot more than others. But this is precisely the kind of decision that empowered patients can make for themselves if they have a financial reason to do so. Most would probably prefer to go to the lower-cost facility and save money, but some may have good reason to go to Massachusetts General Hospital and will be willing to pay more. Should Wheelan be making that decision for every state resident?

Mandate Burdens Workers

Meanwhile, the working uninsured are just now finding out how their politicians have been “helping” them. An article in the June 9 issue of the Boston Business Journal reports that Ryan Crosby, an aspiring musician and part-time bouncer, says he can barely pay his rent.

“I definitely couldn’t afford [health insurance] right now,” Crosby told the paper, adding he worries about getting a better job that would raise his income and result in having to pay even more for mandated coverage. “Sometimes I think the state does things that encourage people to stay poor.”

Timothy “T Max” Maxwell, 54, who publishes a local rock and roll magazine and has been uninsured for the past 25 years, also worries.

“I run my own business but I don’t make much money,” Maxwell told the paper. “I get worried that this may not work out for me and I may be forced to buy something … that I don’t really need.”

Greg Scandlen ([email protected]) is president of Consumers for Health Care Choices.

For more information …

“State plan may curb hospital choice: Insurance authority looks at ways to keep premium costs down,” by Jeffrey Krasner, Boston Globe, June 8, http:/

“Will Mass. chase away people like Ryan Crosby?” by Lisa van der Pool, Boston Business Journal, June 9,