Will Massachusetts Give Health Insurance Industry the Boot?

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Massachusetts was the pioneer in mandatory health insurance, requiring its citizens to buy insurance as a quid quo pro for private insurance companies' agreement to sell policies to all applicants, not just the healthiest. More people are covered now, but it hasn't cut the price of health insurance or saved the state any money. Unlike the states that are trying to kill a similar federal plan, however, Massachusetts could head the other way–cutting the insurance industry out of the deal altogether.

An under-the-radar straw poll in several Massachusetts localities on Nov. 2 tested the idea of going to full single-payer, a sort of Medicare-for-all. About 62% of those who voted favored the idea, presumably after seeing how private insurance won't do the job. But because only 10% of the state's residents in 14 districts took part in the test vote, it got about zero national attention.

What's new, however, is that political analyst Jon Walker at FireDogLake crunched the ballot numbers, comparing the politics of the districts that voted on single-payer to the rest of the state. He found that the 14 districts were only two to three points more liberal, gauged on votes for Barack Obama in 2008 and Gov. Deval Patrick in 2010, than the rest of the state. 

So 59% to 60% of Massachusetts voters might vote to just throw out the for-profit bums.

The legislative language for state-level single payer is already written–in California. Senate Single-payer bill  SB840, originally introduced by the far-seeing Sen. Sheila Kuehl, passed the state Legislature twice, only to be vetoed twice by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. It's been tinkered with, updated and reintroduced as SB810, but remains in a chokehold by the health insurance lobby. 

With a Jerry Brown as governor and Dave Jones as a single-payer-friendly new insurance commissioner in California, that could change. 

So Massachusetts, here's a copy of the latest version of the bill. With your low rate of uninsured citizens, the studies showing that single-payer universal health care could save money in California would show even better numbers in the Bay State. And the federal health reform law encourages states to use the money provided by the bill for grander experiments–single-payer would certainly qualify.

If states go forward with more progressive health care plans, from a public option to single-payer, the worst nightmare of every grossly overpaid insurance company CEO could be realized. I'd sell tickets to watch them weep.

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