A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

The New Health Reform Wave -- I

The New Health Reform Wave -- I

May 13, 2006

Here's the hypothesis -- the new MA health reform law has provided a jolt to policy makers and activists in other states to jump start their health reform efforts. I'll be providing evidence of this in forthcoming posts. Here's the first. UHCAN is the Universal Health Care Action Network run by great folks in Ohio, a network of state-based health reform activists. They do regular phone conference calls to exchange information and state developments. HCFA Policy Director Brian Rosman gave an MA briefing on the most recent call. After his part, the moderator, Rachel DeGolia, asked:

How has passage of the bill impacted the health care debate elsewhere?

Here are her notes of the responses:

NM: Charlotte Roybal, Director of Health Action New Mexico - “Thank you, Massachusetts!” The bill that passed has caught the attention of their Governor who appears to be rethinking his previous opposition to their bill to cost out various models for achieving health care for all in the state.

MI: Gary Benjamin, Michigan Legal Services and UHCAN Ohio - After the MA bill passed, their Governor came out for universal health care for the first time and said she was upset that Massachusetts beat them to it! Michigan advocates have been working in a bi-partisan manner for some time, so the MA model is useful in that regard. Also, they have had significant involvement by faith groups. They are pursuing ideas to take on the issues of cost containment and divorcing health insurance from employment.

IL: Jessica Palys, Campaign for Better Health Care. The MA plan has put constructive pressure on the Health Care Task Force, which is developing legislation under the Health Care Justice Act. It has been an energizer, creating a large amount of public comment.

CA: Don Bechler, Health Care for All-CA, San Francisco The MA plan legitimizes the concepts of an individual mandate and employers getting by with paying 14 cents/hour for health insurance. This will lead to employer who provide insurance now dropping their coverage in favor of this much lower cost requirement.

NY: Mark Hannay, Metro NY Health Care for All metrohealth@igc.org The MA bill appears to have totally turned around the opposition to a process bill that could lead to health care for all. In addition, the energy it has generated is likely to help the Fair Share campaign.

WI: A New Approach to An Employer Mandate – Wisconsin Health Care Partnership Act – Darcy Haber, Program and Communications Director, Wisconsin Citizen Action. The MA plan also has helped their debate. There are several reform bills in the legislature right now: a single payer bill; the Wisconsin Health Plan, which is a complex plan along the lines of Clinton’s former plan, and the Health Care Partnership Act. The Act is the brainchild of the head of the AFL-CIO in the state who has worked hard to garner business support for it. Despite their economic self-interest, there are major ideological hurdles. The Act would create one large pool of people and one payer – the state. It involves an employer mandate of $340/person/month for all employees and their families in the state. It puts self-employed people in a separate pool and would leave about 85,000 uninsured. The hope is to link those people with BadgerCare, the Medicaid program. Thus, there is no actual role for insurance companies.

Sorry California. Can't win 'em all. Coming up tomorrow -- look at Vermont.