The Endless Cycle of Failed State Health Insurance Reforms

As President Obama prepares to introduce his proposal for national health care reform, many legislators are looking at Massachusetts as a model. In 2006, former-Governor Mitt Romney signed The Health Reform Law of 2006, which increased subsidies for coverage for the poor and mandated that the uninsured purchase coverage, with financial penalties for those who didn’t, and for some employers who didn’t offer health benefits.

Over two years later, a large proportion of the state remains uninsured – estimates range from 2.6% to over 5%. Even more disturbing, costs have continued to skyrocket, and coverage for some of the very poorest residents has worsened, keeping some from receiving necessary medical care. Earlier this week, Physicians for a National Health Plan and Public Citizen released a new report that documents these failures.

A key feature of the Massachusetts reform is that private insurers are left to operate as they always have, diverting a large portion of health care spending to administrative waste, and denying care or coverage to those who are unprofitable In addition, a new bureaucracy, the Connecter, has been created to help patients select a particular private insurance plan, adding 4.5% in additional overhead to the cost of each policy it brokers. This Connector is a costly, not cost-saving, measure, and one that is rumored to be considered by Obama’s team.

Several other states have attempted incremental reforms over the years – Oregon, Minnesota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, and Maine. They all largely left private insurance untouched, and as a result, they all failed make a significant impact on the level of uninsurance in each state.

The only acceptable solution to our health care crisis should be one that truly covers every American with high-quality care, while lowering costs. The only way I know of to achieve this is through single-payer. Only by eliminating private insurance, and breaking the antiquated link between employment and health insurance, can we have universal health care, and a system that we can finally be proud of.