WASHINGTON - April 5 - The lead story in today's New York Times reports that "Massachusetts is poised to become the first state to provide nearly universal health care coverage with a bill passed overwhelmingly by the legislature Tuesday that Gov. Mitt Romney says he will sign."
The following Boston-based health care analysts are available for interviews:
STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER, MD
Associate professor of medicine at Harvard University, Woolhandler is co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program. She said today: "It's pure fantasy to say that this bill will result in universal coverage. According to the Census Bureau, three-quarters of a million people in Massachusetts have no health insurance. We could afford to cover all of them with no increase in overall health care costs if we could get the private insurance industry and its wasteful bureaucracy out of the picture.
"But that's not what this bill does; it funnels most of the new money to the big hospitals and insurance companies that lobbied for it. They are the big winners here. There's a modest expansion of Medicaid in the bill and a mandate that individuals must buy private insurance which the bill promises will be comprehensive and low cost. But that's an empty promise; it's like promising chocolate chip cookies with no sugar, fat or calories."
Sager is a director of the Health Reform Program at Boston University's School of Public Health. He said today: "This law provides far too little money to help individuals comply with the mandate to buy health insurance. One of the reasons is that hospitals, especially costly teaching hospitals and their lobbyists, got in line first. It looks like hospital rate increases will exceed the new state subsidies plus new employer subsidies to help individuals afford coverage. In the state with the most expensive health care, moving a few dollars around the edges is not an adequate solution to people's real problems affording health care.
"Because the law does nothing to slow cost increases, employees' and employers' premiums for family insurance will rise from $12,000 this year to $15,000 in 2009. That's unaffordable. Real cost controls are essential to help insured people and uninsured people alike. The savings have to be used to make good care durably affordable for all of us."