Thursday, March 08, 2007

Health Care Reform or Something - Massachusetts Style

Bob's already commented on this developing story; here are some more details as reported by The Boston Globe on March 5th:

"Governor Deval Patrick yesterday unveiled significantly lower prices." How much lower? Look in the 10th paragraph “average monthly premium for residents of Eastern Massachusetts of $305. That indicates a decrease of nearly 20 percent in premiums from the earlier bids” (why is the good news always buried in the 10th paragraph?)

But averages can cover up a lotta things. For example:

1. The plans are age-rated. The least-expensive plan is offered by Neighborhood Health Plan (a Boston-area Medicaid insurer) and costs $175 a month - provided you are age 35-39. If you are over 56, the premium is $347 a month. Who will actually pay the "average" premium? Anyone?

2. The plans are geographically-rated. "coverage will be less expensive in Central Massachusetts compared with the eastern and western parts of the state."

3. The benefits are bare-bones at the lowest price points, even for the Boston Medicaid insurer. The plan "covers preventive care, office visits, hospitalization, and prescription drugs". Mandates? what mandates? More: "The annual deductible for the basic plan would be steep: $2,000 for an individual and $4,000 for a family" and "Similar plans from the three major health plans". Stripping the benefits sure does lower the premium, but isn’t that a tactic that only the greedy private insurance companies use? Yikes.

The Massachusetts plan is widely called "health care reform" but it looks and sounds to me like plain-old insurance, subsidized by the State. In other words, true to a grand Boston tradition, Gov. Romney "stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni". And now Gov Patrick is doing the same.
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