Given the Massachusetts Experience, What is Our Health Care Future?
In our previous entry, we stated that the Massachusetts health care plan had the same objectives and strategies as the one recently signed by President Obama. Given their 3 1/2 year head start, we have a pretty plausible picture of what our health care future might look like.
Among the good results are:
- more, but not all, people covered by insurance
- low income people provided with state-subsidized insurance
These, however, are over-shadowed by the not-so-good results:
- the highest per capita health care costs in the country
- struggling health insurance companies
- a frustrated state government threatening price controls
- small businesses dropping their health care benefits, accepting fines, and turning their employees over to the state-subsidized system.
- increasingly crowded hospital emergency rooms
- doctors refusing to accept new patients covered by state-subsidized health insurance
- increasing numbers of people coming under the state-subsidized plan
- hospitals in danger of closing
The picture looks even bleaker for the U.S. when we consider Massachusetts’s higher income, education, and skill levels. Moreover, while the Massachusetts health care system subsidizes income levels 3 times the federal income level ($66,150 for a family of 4) our national health reform plan will cover people at 4 times the federal income level ($88,200 per family of 4). This alone greatly increases the cost of the national health care plan.
Massachusetts is less than 4 years into their system and their health care cost is not only higher than the rest of the nation, it is rising faster as well. They and we need to stop and take stock of the situation. We can’t just keep throwing money at a problem. In an article titled: Massachusetts Health Care Reform – Near-Universal Coverage at What Cost?, the respected New England Journal of Medicine suggests that, given the resources we have, we must balance individuals’ needs for quality health care with the obligation to be socially and fiscally responsible. To be socially responsible suggests we have an obligation to provide good schools, a vibrant job economy, safe neighborhoods, a clean environment, and a secure country. Fiscal responsibility calls for us to be able to pay for these obligations without going into heavy debt.
Do we need to help people who, for one reason or another, are kept from decent health care? Yes. Can we do it with a system like Massachusetts’? Assuredly not. We can’t afford it. We need ideas that address the reasons health care cost is so high. We need a market centered approach where people determine what they need not the government. We need to encourage healthy lifestyles. We need to keep what works and attack only what’s not. We need to stop calling everyone who’s in the medical business ‘greedy’. We need to make smaller changes and call for measured results. In short, let’s not do what Massachusetts is doing.