“Virtually all Massachusetts residents who have gained coverage since the landmark 2006 law passed are now in a government health care program,” WBUR’s Martha Bebinger reports, attributing the significant increase in private insurance to the recession and loss of employer-based coverage:
Many experts agree the recession has played an enormous role in this shift from private to public coverage. Since the coverage law passed in 2006, 411,000 more residents of Massachusetts have health insurance; it’s the largest insurance expansion in the country. In the first few years, the expansion was fairly evenly divided between private and public insurance. That’s no longer the case.
According to Nancy Turnbull, an associate dean at the Harvard School of Public Health, “virtually everyone” of the Massachusetts residents who have received health care coverage with the implementation of the new law are enrolled in a public plan. “It’s virtually everyone because the number of people who have employer coverage has gone down,” Turnbull said. “That’s not at all surprising, that’s happening all over the country.”
That’s surprising because I covered many news conferences where supporters of the law stressed the success of shared responsibility. They used that analogy of the three-legged stool (individual, employers and state government all doing their part) over and over.
One can look at this in two ways. From a budget perspective, the spike in eligibility is a significant burden to the state, particularly since health reformers stressed that the law would spread the risk and cost of coverage among individuals, employers and state government. Obviously, Massachusetts still has a long way to go in achieving that goal and lowering health care spending across the board. But reform provided a crucial safety net for families and individuals who would have otherwise gone uninsured, skipped medical care and in some cases lost their lives. That’s a significant achievement that will now allow the state to make the changes necessary — the picture will certainly look better once employment picks up — to be able to afford the program over the long haul.