The Treasurer of Massachusetts blasted the health care plan recently signed by President Obama as a threat to the American economy, even as the White House acknowledged its health care legislation parallels the Bay State’s controversial reforms.
Massachusetts Treasurer Timothy Cahill, a former Democrat now running as an independent for governor, told reporters in a press conference prior to the March 21 vote to pass the reform package, “If President Obama and the Democrats repeat the mistake of the health insurance reform here in Massachusetts on a national level, they will threaten to wipe out the American economy within four years.”
Cahill, who has opposed the plan which resulted in insurance premiums growing 21 to 46 percent faster than the national average, pointed out Commonwealth Care is only able to work thanks to subsidy funds from the federal government.
“Who, exactly, is going to bail out the federal government if this plan goes national?” Cahill said.
Massachusetts Model for Obamacare
Cahill is not alone in seeking to benefit from voter animosity toward anti-consumer health reforms. Polling data indicates Republican Senator Scott Brown’s strongest selling point with Massachusetts voters in his surprising special election victory may have been his opposition to the White House health care plan.
According to polling firm Fabrizio, McLaughlin, and Associates, which conducted a survey of 800 voters in an Election Day exit poll, no less than 42 percent of Brown voters said they voted for him specifically to stop Obama’s health care plan. The anti-reform perspective crossed party lines, including 51 percent of the independents who voted for him and 17 percent of the Democrats who gave Brown their vote.
Yet the White House admits their reform package is modeled on the Massachusetts program.
“Senator Brown comes from a state that has a healthcare plan that’s similar to the one we’re trying to enact here,” White House advisor David Axelrod said in a March 14 appearance on ABC’s This Week.
Reform Raised Costs
In 2006 Massachusetts changed its healthcare system to cover all residents through many of the mechanisms also used in the Obama plan: Mandates to individuals and businesses to buy insurance, exchanges in which residents can buy government-approved policies, and subsidies for individuals who cannot afford insurance on their own.
The reforms did increase the percent of state residents covered, but at a hefty price. The state’s Medicaid program cost has increased from $7.5 billion to $9.2 billion, and although more than 400,000 uninsured have since purchased insurance, 68 percent of them received a taxpayer-funded subsidy.
To stay afloat, the system has made drastic cuts. Those include dropping coverage for 30,000 legal immigrants and reducing the state’s Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements to hospitals to historically low levels.
In 2009, Boston Medical Center filed suit against the state, claiming the government had violated the law by paying only 64 cents on every dollar spent treating the poor.
Still, “We’re just trying to give the rest of America the same opportunities that the people of Massachusetts have,” Axelrod said on ABC.
Rick Docksai ([email protected]) writes from Washington, DC.