Massachusetts, “model for national health care reform,” cracking under cost pressures

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Despite the fact that more Massachusetts residents have health insurance, many of them can’t actually use that "insurance" to get health care. That’s what the New York Times says about a new report out today on Massachusetts’ mandatory insurance plan.

Despite a weakening economy, Massachusetts continued to measure
gains in the share of residents who reported having a steady source of
health care in 2008, its second year of near-universal coverage, a new study has found.

But the annual survey, taken each fall since 2006, also raised red
flags regarding the ability of residents to actually use that care,
with growing numbers saying they could not afford needed treatments and
many reporting shortages of primary care physicians.

The study’s
authors wrote that there were lessons for Washington, where
Congressional committees are incorporating much of the Massachusetts
model into federal health care legislation.

“Although major
expansions in coverage can be achieved without addressing health care
costs, cost pressures have the potential to undermine the gains,” wrote
the researchers, Sharon K. Long and Paul B. Masi of the Urban Institute.

What is it we’ve been saying since the mandate became a serious part of the debate? Insurance isn’t really insurance if  you’re not covered when you get sick. Just ask Dana Christensen, whose junk insurance left her with $450,000 in medical bills when her husband passed away, or Ron Norton, who can’t afford private insurance in Massachusetts and must pay an annual fine (over $1000 the year after this profile was written) but remains uninsured.

UPDATE: More from Consumer Watchdog on what this means for national health care reform here.

Download the report here.

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