Massachusetts' Budget Forces Retreat From Universal Coverage

"The new state budget in Massachusetts eliminates health care coverage for some 30,000 legal immigrants to help close a growing deficit, reversing progress toward universal coverage just as Congress looks to the state as a model for overhauling the nation’s health care system," the New York Times reports. The affected immigrants are permanent residents who have had green cards for less than five years and are insured through the Commonwealth Care program, an insurance program created by the 2006 law that brought near-universal coverage to Massachusetts. The cuts would save around $130 million (Goodnough, 7/14).

Meanwhile, Sen. Richard T. Moore, D-Mass., announced insurance industry-backed legislation that health plans say could "cut the cost of premiums by up to 22 percent," the Boston Globe reports. "The plan... would allow businesses with 50 or fewer employees, and self-employed individuals, to buy basic medical coverage with lower upfront costs and higher out-of-pocket expenses. Healthcare providers would be reimbursed a maximum of 110 percent of the Medicare rate for services, which would translate into lower premiums for small businesses, said Dr. Marylou Buyse, the president of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, an industry group. It would also cap at 2 percent the profits insurers could make from small businesses, Buyse said."

But the state health plan association, as well as the Massachusetts Medical Society, point out problem areas in the bill. "The plan presented yesterday won't come close to solving the healthcare crisis, said Dr. Mario Motta, the president of the Massachusetts Medical Society and a cardiologist at Salem Hospital. 'The main problem is that it's based solely on cutting rates to physicians and providers'" (Ballenger, 7/15).

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