Health reform for the long haul - Chip's perspective
Our friend and Board member Chip Joffe-Halpern wrote a column for the Berkshire Eagle (State health reform for the long haul), explaining some of the challenges and successes in Massachusetts’ implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Chip runs Ecu-Health Care, a non-profit which helps the uninsured and underinsured residents of North Berkshire access affordable health care.
His op-ed today puts into context where we are, and where we are going. He concludes that, “Massachusetts has implemented policies that go beyond the federal guidelines and will more effectively achieve the objectives of the Affordable Care Act.” Here’s Chip:
Massachusetts has struggled implementing the Affordable Care Act, highlighted by a problematic computer system and an inability to process thousands of applications. Given that Massachusetts pioneered near universal coverage with its 2006 landmark health care law, the state has received much criticism for its inability to make the changes needed to accommodate the federal health coverage expansion.
Massachusetts has not received the recognition it deserves though, for taking important steps that augers well for the long-term success of health reform.
When it became apparent the computer problems could not be easily solved, the state decided to enroll over 227,000 individuals in temporary health insurance. Health coverage was also extended to an additional 100,000 individuals who were previously enrolled in the state's Commonwealth Care and Medical Security Plan health insurance programs, Massachusetts has received approval to extend coverage for these individuals through December 31, 2014.
Going forward, Massachusetts is also keeping health care cost sharing at affordable levels for individuals and families with incomes under 300 percent of the 2013 federal poverty guidelines ($34,476 for one, $70,656 for four). These individuals will be eligible for MassHealth, or Connector Care, a health insurance that has no annual deductibles. ConnectorCare members will also receive additional assistance to lower the cost of health insurance premiums and cost-sharing so that costs are similar to what individuals currently pay under Com monwealth Care.
The Affordable Care Act embraces the principle that all Americans deserve affordable health coverage. While the federal law includes cost-sharing support for individuals whose incomes are under 250 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, each state has the latitude to implement policies that will determine both the cost of health insurance premiums and the amount of cost sharing for individuals who will qualify for assistance under the federal law.
Chip is so right on. Read the entire explanation here.