Study: Massachusetts Reform Not a Model

Published June 1, 2009

Massachusetts’s 2006 attempt to cut health care costs and increase the number of insured through a government mandate requiring individuals to purchase insurance has become an object lesson in what not to do in reforming health care, three Harvard Medical School professors report.

Drs. Rachel Nardin, Steffie Woolhandler, and David Himmelstein say the Bay State’s effort to change the health care market by increasing government regulation has cost far more than anticipated while resulting in higher costs and lower-quality coverage for low-income Massachusetts residents. They report their findings in “Massachusetts’ Plan: A Failed Model for Health Care Reform.”

Not a Positive Model

“Three years ago then-Governor [Mitt] Romney (R) collaborated with the majority-Democrat legislature to achieve so-called ‘universal’ health care by government dictate,” noted John R. Graham, director of health care studies at the Pacific Research Institute. “This meant squeezing every resident into either compulsory private health insurance or expanded government programs, using both tax hikes and subsidies.”

“Massachusetts had one of the highest rates of insured residents at the outset of this program,” said Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation, “and it’s still costing a tremendous amount of money and going far over budget.”

Gessing says real health care reform should be market-based and left up to each state.

“No attempt at reform should be based on the Massachusetts fiasco,” Gessing said, “but the fact is, we shouldn’t be dealing with this on a national level at all. A one-size-fits-all national model, even if not based on Massachusetts, would not be a workable solution to the problems the health care system is currently facing.”

Creating More Problems

“[Massachusetts] can no longer bear the costs of its own program, which are spiraling out of control far faster than other states’ costs are,” Graham said. The problem is being exacerbated by bureaucrats’ attempts to deal with problems caused by their interference in the marketplace by interfering more, he added.

“Governor [Deval] Patrick and his allies believe that they are capable of improving how health care goods and services are priced, but they’ve prevented any actual reduction in health care prices,” Graham said.

All in all, Graham concluded, there is “little reason to have confidence the Bay State will work itself out of the health care mess it is currently in.”

Joe Emanuel ([email protected]) writes from Georgia. Colleen Watson ([email protected]) writes from California.

For more information …

“Massachusetts’ Plan: A Failed Model for Health Care Reform”: