Globe Gets It Backwards: National Health Reform Is Good For Massachusetts

In what world could someone conclude that billions of new federal dollars to cover health needs of low income Bay Staters could result in less affordable care for the poor?

Only in the backwards land of today’s Globe story, Mass may find US health care changes costly.”

That headline is exactly opposite of what the new report presented yesterday at the BCBS Foundation/Mass Health Policy Forum concluded. The report, written by Robert Seifert and Andrew Cohen of the Center for Health Law and Economics at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, concludes that Massachusetts will reap $1.8 billion in additional Medicaid funds from 2014-2019, and that new federal tax credits will supplant much of current Commonwealth Care spending (links: press release/summary, slides, full report).

The report also highlighted that coverage will expand for those above the 300% of poverty cut-off, because federal help extends to 400% of poverty. This will allow another 23,000 to 50,000 state residents who make between 300% and 400% FPL to become eligible for insurance subsidies. Between 32,000 and 58,000 legal immigrants will qualify for new federal subsidies. Over 100,000 small businesses, all with low-wage employees, will get assistance to allow them to offer affordable coverage. This is bad news for the poor?

The focus of the Globe story was on a minor sidenote of the report: the federal tax credits will provide less help than current Commonwealth Care standards. So if we abandoned our current program and went with just the federal minimum, low-income people would theoretically pay higher premiums. But the report showed how we can easily avoid that outcome. Look at this chart, from the study:

The new federal dollars Massachusetts will be getting are the dark blue sections of the bars, in 3 different categories. The cost of maintaining our existing CommCare benefits is the orange section. As you can see, the state will have way more than enough new funds (the dark blue) to cover the orange and maintain all benefits.

At yesterday’s forum, everyone understood that implementing national health reform in Massachusetts presents several unique challenges, and that consumers and other stakeholders must continue to be maximally involved in the policy process. Yet we are so far ahead of the curve, and in such a favorable situation compared to other states.

It’s too bad the Globe missed the news.
-Brian Rosman

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One Response to Globe Gets It Backwards: National Health Reform Is Good For Massachusetts

  1. The nature of the study is one of immediate economics based on assumptions of how states will react to the changes introduced by reform. Unfortunately, such stories promote an agenda that focuses only on a subset of costs and entirely glosses over what is being gained for those monies that are being spent.

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