While Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and his conservative allies rally against government-subsidized health care programs, Massachusetts has successfully “reduced its proportion of uninsured adults by nearly half in the first year of mandatory health coverage and made gains in the share of people receiving routine preventive care, according to the first major study of the 2006 law”:
At roughly the end of the first year after implementation of the new legislation began in Massachusetts, insurance among working-age adults was reduced by almost half (from 13 percent to 7 percent)…There were also improvements in access to care in Massachusetts between fall 2006 and fall 2007, along with reductions in out-of-pocket health care spending, problems paying medical bills, and medical debt.
The new study both undercuts McCain’s rhetoric that universal health insurance will lead to “inefficiency, irrationality, and uncontrolled costs” and highlights the ability of comprehensive health care reform to improve access to affordable health insurance. Here are some of the report’s key findings:
– Increased Access To Care: One year after Massachusetts adopted comprehensive reform, “nearly 93 percent of non elderly adults in the state were insured.” In fall 2007, low-income adults were also more likely to report a dental visit and a visit to a physician for preventive care within the past 12 months than in fall 2006.
— No Crowd-Out Of Employer Coverage: The report finds that “employer coverage increased by five percentage points” for low-income adults and found no evidence that “employers are less likely to offer coverage to their workers under health reform than before.”
— Fewer Financial Barriers To Care: In fall 2007, 16.9 percent of low-income adults said that they had not received needed care in the past twelve months because of cost, compared to 27.3 percent in fall 2006. The proportion of low-income adults with more than $500 in out-of-pocket spending dropped from 48.2 percent in fall 2006 to 37.4 percent in fall 2007.
The report notes that “the cost of reform to the state has exceeded initial cost projections, in part because the number of uninsured adults exceeded initial state projections” and because the state experienced higher-than-expected enrollment in the Commonwealth Care plans. This, combined with the broad popularity of the plan, underscores the need for public programs as part of health reform.
Ultimately, the success of universal health insurance reform undermines McCain’s proposal, which, with its coverage gap for individuals with pre-existing conditions, sounds like a poor alternative.