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The Harvard School of Public Health and Massachusetts’ Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation trumpeted the results of a poll today that found more than two-thirds of Bay State residents support the state’s health care reform law. But the interesting numbers came after the headline.

  • While 69% say they support the state’s “health care reform law,” the number drops to 58% when asked if they support the individual mandate. (Since a requirement that all individuals obtain health insurance is the cornerstone of Massachusetts’ “health care reform law,” I find it difficult to believe that the 11% who like the law, but not the mandate, really knew what they were talking about.)
  • 67% (virtually the same number that generically support “health care reform”) tell pollsters that the law has had “a limited impact on them personally.”
  • Among those people the law most directly affected (those who lacked health insurance within the last year) support for the “health care reform law” in general drops to 52%
  • Among that group, support for the mandate is at just 37%.
  • And 44% of those uninsured within the last year say they are personally being hurt by the law.

There is a clear split here that policymakers considering an individual mandate for health insurance must consider. Those people who are secure with their employer, or otherwise-provided, health insurance have no problem requiring people purchase private insurance, because the requirement doesn’t affect their lives. Those people who have actually been uninsured, and are forced into paying a fine or purchasing unaffordable or low-coverage private health insurance, see the situation from a starkly different point of view.

“Health care reform” shouldn’t only work for the people who already have private insurance.

Read more in today's Boston Globe article on businesses' resistance to paying part of the rising costs of the mandate.