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Health Reform's Wednesday Hearing Preview -- State House News Service

Health Reform's Wednesday Hearing Preview -- State House News Service

June 6, 2005

"STATE HOUSE, BOSTON…..Organizers expect more than a thousand Bay Staters to climb Beacon Hill Wednesday with their growing concerns about the cost and availability of health care. For years those concerns have topped the worry list of most Americans but cost shifting has prevailed over permanent solutions. Now, with the cost of insuring workers skyrocketing for the government and private companies that provide such coverage, the number of uninsured growing, and more families finding the cost prohibitive, Beacon Hill has collectively decided it's time to act. Every few years the state addresses some facet of the problem. Nearly two decades ago, Massachusetts placed an employer mandate on the books in hopes that it would lead to universal coverage here. But the requirement that companies not offering insurance pay a per-worker fee toward covering the uninsured was wiped off the books before it ever took effect. Then in the early 90s, the Commonwealth made deregulatory changes that enabled managed care to take off and lower health care inflation for a while. But the perennial problem persists and the US Congress is also a battleground for all the special interests involved in the complex system. While elected officials are eager to ease the health care burden for consumers, there are other groups, like hospitals, doctors and insurers, pressuring them for consideration.

"All the voices in the health care debate will be heard Wednesday when the new Committee on Health Care Financing takes testimony on half a dozen bills to overhaul the system by expanding coverage and improving access to care. A coalition of groups plans to spend the day rallying and lobbying for change. Earlier this year, House and Senate leaders deemed the problem important enough to create a whole new joint committee to address it. Sen. Richard Moore (D-Uxbridge) and Rep. Patricia Walrath (D-Stow) chair the panel. Moore, who previously chaired the Health Care Committee, has his own name attached to five of the proposals being heard Wednesday, including the one sponsored by Senate President Robert Travaglini (D-East Boston). But Republican Gov. Mitt Romney's proposal to expand health coverage to the 460,000 to 650,000 people estimated to lack it is not on the list to be aired since lawmakers detoured it to a different destination - the Financial Services Committee, which has not scheduled a date to hear it. The governor's bill deals primarily with reforming the non-group and small group insurance markets to make lower cost insurance plans more widely available. A hearing date has not been set on that bill."

The hearing starts at 10am in Gardner Auditorium in the State House. There's a clergy press conference at 9am across Bowdoin Street. 12 noon rally in Nurses Hall. Check in all day in State House Room 222 for activities and updates. More info -- phelps@hcfama.org.<