A Healthy Blog

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

States

PA Gov. Rendell Offers "Prescription for Pennsylvania"

Check out PA Gov. Ed Rendell's "Prescription for Pennsylvania" health reform proposal. Some key ideas: -- Mandated participation by employers -- starting with firms with 50+ workers -- Coverage subsidies for uninsured with incomes below 300% of the poverty line -- Phased-in individual mandate for those with incomes above 300% fpl -- Elimination of hospital acquired infections and medical errors -- Requirement for electronic health records Looks more like MA than we would have expected. Read more »

New Report on State Coverage Initiatives 2007

Great overview of the state of state health reform in a new report just published by the State Coverage Initiative of AcademyHealth, funded by Robert Wood Johnson. Balanced and informative. Click here for the report. Read more »

Federal Appeals Court Rules Against Maryland, Upholds WalMart

Click here for NYTimes article on today's decision by the 4th District Court of Appeals in Virginia upholding the Baltimore federal district court ruling that struck down the Maryland "Walmart Tax." The Maryland law, passed by the state legislature in January, 2006 over a gubernatorial veto, would have required all for-profit companies with more than 10K workers (only WalMart) to pay at least 8% of payroll on worker health benefits or pay the difference to the state. Since the 4th circuit appeals court is among the most conservative in the nation, many of us had hoped Maryland would not... Read more »

Governors Advance Health Access Plans

It’s not just Massachusetts and California that are looking at health reform. Here are a set of anecdotes regarding gubernatorial health reform agendas – all taken from today’s Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report: Minnesota: Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) proposed expanding access to state health insurance programs and allowing residents to use pretax dollars to pay for premiums. Pawlenty's proposal would extend access to MinnesotaCare to 23,000 more residents, mainly children; add a new component to MinnesotaCare called MinnesotaCare Modern or MinnesotaCare II that would offer low premiums with high... Read more »

California Dreamin' II

More on CA Gov. Schwarzenegger's health reform plan and related developments: Check out today's New York Times article updating readers on MA health reform's progress. NYT pegs enrollment at about 29,000. By our count -- 53,000 added to MassHealth since last July. Over 50,000 have now been qualified for Commonwealth Care and about 29,000 have chosen plans and had coverage commence. All will be covered in the next few weeks putting total new enrollees over 100,000. Our sister organization, Health Access California, recently started their own blog (welcome to the fray!). A smart, well... Read more »

Schwarzenegger's Health Proposal: "Massachusetts on Steroids"

Credit to NPR's Julie Rovner for the "MA on steroids" one-liner. Click here for the NYT article on CA Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's universal health proposal. It's big, it's bold, it's risky -- and you've got to give the Governator credit for producing a plan that lives up to the advance hype. This proposal delivers: -- The plan aims to cover nearly all 6.5 million uninsured in California -- and, if enacted, might just do it. -- All businesses with 10 or more employees that do not provide coverage would have to pay a 4% payroll tax to the State (the MA law requires a $295 annual... Read more »

Why an Individual Mandate Is a Bad Idea in a Lot of States (Happy new year!)

A happy and healthy new year to all our faithful Healthy Blog readers. We appreciate the feedback you give us in many ways and love your suggestions. OK, enough partying ... down to business. We admit it -- we're not convinced an individual mandate to buy health insurance will work in MA, and we're willing to give it a serious try. There are compelling reasons why it makes sense, and there are compelling reasons why it may not work. We get asked a lot -- should other states try it too? Our answer is -- some should consider it and some should not. Here's a strong reason why some should... Read more »

Our MA's Health Insurance Premiums the Nation's Highest? Apparently Not...

Around these parts, we often assume our health insurance premiums are the highest in the nation, by a longshot. Doesn't appear to be the case. Check out this new federal data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality -- data obtained through the annual MEPS (Medical Expenditure Panel Survey) -- of 13,000 families and 32,000 persons, 2004. Here's the "average total premiums ... for private sector establishments for areas within State: US 2004:" Read more »

"Blueprint for Coverage" Outlined for New York

The United Hospital Fund and the Commonwealth Fund in New York have collaborated on a universal coverage plan for the Empire State, called a "Blueprint for Coverage." They used John Holahan and colleagues from the Urban Institute for the analytical work -- John was centrally involved in the "Roadmap to Coverage" plans advanced by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts in our health reform process. This new outline resembles the MA health reform framework in striking ways. Key features: Public Programs. Simplification and expansion of existing public programs with three... Read more »

We're #7: United Health Foundation's Annual Health Rankings

Click here to obtain the United Health Foundation's annual ranking of all 50 states according to a variety of health measures: personal behavior risk factors, community environment risk factors, health policy risk factors, and health outcomes. Massachusetts bottom line: From 2005 to 2006, MA improved overall from #9 to #7. (Since 1990 when this survey started, MA's ranking has varied between #3 and #11.) Our strengths: High childhood immunization coverage (#1), Low infant mortality rate (#1), Low rate of uninsured (#4 -- drop from #14 in 2005), Ready access to prenatal care (#4),... Read more »

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