98% Mass. Health Coverage ‘As Good As It Gets’ — Or Is It?

98% of Massachusetts residents have health insurance.  That number, a result of the state’s 2006 health coverage law, has been more or less the same for the last two years. It is confirmed in the latest report from the Patrick administration.

Key Indicators: Quarterly Enrollment Update, June 2011 Edition, Released in February 2012 (Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, Commonwealth of Massachusetts)

Key Indicators: Quarterly Enrollment Update, June 2011 Edition, Released in February 2012 (Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, Commonwealth of Massachusetts)

What’s new is that the state now says 98% is as good as it gets. From the same report:

“Massachusetts may have reached maximum insurance levels based on existing demographics and health insurance characteristics.”

Let’s break that down. The Patrick administration says “existing demographics” refers to illegal immigrants who don’t qualify for health coverage. “Health insurance characteristics” refers to residents who receive a waiver because they can’t afford insurance and those who cycle in and out of coverage through their employer or a government insurance plan.

The administration points out that among the 98% covered, 99.8% of children in Massachusetts have insurance.  The office of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Jennifer Kritz said:

“We serve as a national model for coverage expansions, because we’ve worked hard to make insurance more affordable and accessible.  Massachusetts has attained the near-universal coverage envisioned in our 2006 law. We are hopeful that cost containment measures now being debated and the implementation of federal reform will make insurance affordable for even more Massachusetts residents.”

Some public health advocates urge the state not to give up at 98%. They say:

  • There are still residents who are eligible for coverage but have not signed up.
  • There are low-income workers who can’t afford their employers’ insurance, but can’t sign up for Commonwealth Care because they are offered employer-based coverage.
  • There should be options for low-income people who are undocumented.
  • The state must work to make sure there are affordable health insurance options for everyone, including those residents who are currently exempt.
  • The state should consider stronger penalties that would compel people who aren’t buying coverage now to do so (I know this will enrage some of you).

By the way, some countries that we assume have universal coverage aren’t covering everyone either. In the Netherlands, the uninsured rate is 1.5%.



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  • http://www.facebook.com/kathy.kirby.568 Kathy Kirby

    “There are still residents who are eligible who have not signed up”.. I would like to comment on that: I was ‘enrolled’ in Masshealth and they constantly misplaced my paperwork. They claimed I was covered, yet I have over $5K in medical bills they refuse to pay for stating I didn’t pay premiums because I made too much money for free care (I am a single mother of 1 and made $16K that year… and was paying $850.00 a month in rent!!) Incarcerated people had better coverage than I did!! In addition, when you call Masshealth or Commonwealth care, your on hold for over an hour and when you finally get through to someone, they can barely speak English. I am only left to assume they weren’t born and raised in this country and haven’t been paying into the system as long as I have. The hours at the Masshealth offices are very limited – usually during most people’s working hours. So, if you need to visit the office, the wait time is at least a half hour to two hours. The few times I have had to wait, I was amazed at the other people waiting for healthcare: moms with their hair and nails done and their children standing by their sides wearing more gold than what I own. Amazing how these luxuries can be afforded, but they can’t afford healthcare. When I really needed it and hit rock bottom through no fault of my own, they refused to cover me. I had a choice: pay for a roof over my head or pay for premiums but I certainly was not in a position to do both. This program is a complete disgrace!!

  • http://byrondennis.typepad.com/masshealthstats/ Dennis Byron

    Not surprisingly, not one mention in this article that the Patrick administration “Quarterly Key Indicators” report to the people on the failure of RomneyCare is no longer “Quarterly” and no longer contains “Key Indicators.”

  • http://twitter.com/LilPecan The Real Pecan©✔

    An improvement will be when my COBRA becomes tax deductible.  25% of my income goes to COBRA yet my former employer gets the tax deduction while I pay 105% of the premium. What is wrong with that picture?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Will-LaTulippe/504050518 Will LaTulippe

    Stronger penalties?  I pay enough in taxes as it is.  Health insurance is a shitty product that I don’t want.  Period.

  • Martha Bebinger

    Hi Neil – I hope you are well.  The Bridge folks are going back into Comm Care this month, yes?  How’s it going?

  • Neil Cronin

    One arera of improvement will be underway shortly, when the Finch decision is implemented, and legal immigrants with less than five years legal permanent residence will be allowed to enroll in Commonwealth Care.