The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Congress Copying Massachusetts' Failing Healthcare?


Woolhandler is a primary care physician at Cambridge Hospital and associate professor at Harvard Medical School who has studied and written about the Massachusetts healthcare plan.

She said today: "As Washington politicians climb on-board a
Massachusetts-style health reform, Massachusetts healthcare sinks.

"Congress seems poised to include an individual mandate in health
reform, copying Massachusetts. Here, beating your wife, communicating a
terrorist threat and being uninsured all carry $1,000 fines.

"The 2006 Massachusetts reform halved the state's already low
uninsurance rate -- mostly by expanding Medicaid and similar programs
at great public expense.

"But reform hasn't made care affordable for middle class families,
or for the public treasury. A middle income uninsured 56-year-old is
now forced to lay out at least $4,800 for a policy with a $2,000
deductible before it pays for any care, and 20 percent co-payments
after that. Overpriced, skimpy coverage like this left one in six
Massachusetts residents unable to pay their medical bills last year.
Among INSURED residents in the state, 18 percent say they skipped care
because they couldn't afford it.

"Meanwhile, health costs continue to rise; our state Senate is
planning to drop 28,000 people from the insurance rolls, and public
hospitals and clinics have suffered draconian cuts as the governor
diverts their funding to shore up the reform. The state just cut the
budget of Boston Medical Center, the state's largest safety net
provider, by $180 million. Cuts to Cambridge Health Alliance, the
second largest safety net provider, have forced closure of half of its
psychiatric services and six of its community clinics.

"Massachusetts' experience prefigures the ugly reality of the
reform plans on the table in Washington. Searching for the $100-$150
billion extra they'd need each year just to cover the uninsured,
Congress threatens to tax health benefits for those who are currently
insured, effectively increasing the price. And they'd drain Medicare
and Medicaid funds from safety net hospitals, anticipating a sharp drop
in those unable to pay for care -- a drop that never really
materialized in Massachusetts."

Woolhandler testified before the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on June 24 in Washington.

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