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"A Brief Pause for Applause" by Dolores Mitchell

Last Thursday was a very good day for health care reform. The Connector Authority Board met and in an unusually (for Massachusetts) amicable session, resolved three tough issues that have threatened to derail the train moving toward implementation of Ch. 58. The Board voted to loosen the purse strings a bit to help out the people at the lower end of the income scale. They agreed on an affordability schedule that will exempt from the individual mandate, people whose premiums would probably be too high for them to handle, and they agreed to be flexible in granting individual cases of hardship. The advocates congratulated the board members for listening and responding. The board members praised the staff for their prodigious and successful work. The Chair thanked the board members for their perseverance and patience in achieving a compromise that everyone could accept. It was a rare Massachusetts moment and 99% of the uninsured should be able to get insurance as a result.

It is obvious that implementation is still a major challenge, but an even bigger challenge still remains, more talked about than acted on. The one percent who are relieved of the immediate requirement to buy insurance, and the businesses that have been given some time to comply with the new minimum coverage standards will continue to be plagued by the high cost of health care in the Commonwealth.

Getting almost everybody covered by insurance is a giant step forward and all the participants certainly deserve a moment to feel good about what has been achieved. But, if we are going to sustain those achievements over time, and bring the rest of the population into the insurance programs, health care costs and how to control their growth has to remain on the agenda. And it will take the combined efforts of purchasers, providers, payers, and patients to address the issues. Stay tuned for more on the subject in my next blog.Dolores L. Mitchell, Executive Director of the Group Insurance Commission of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the agency that provides life, health, disability and dental and vision services to 265,000 State employees, retirees and their dependents.

This program aired on April 16, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

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