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Health Reform - Phase Two by Richard C. Lord

Everyone involved in the health care reform effort in Massachusetts should be proud. In just a little over a year, we have reduced the number of uninsured residents in the state by more than one-third and we are continuing to make progress each month. Policy makers nationwide are watching Massachusetts closely to determine if this is a model for reform in other states or at a national level or whether, at the very least, some components of our reform law could be replicated elsewhere.

As other bloggers have suggested, however, we certainly cannot ignore the very real threat to the success of our program in Massachusetts unless we seriously address the issues related to rising health care costs. After almost a decade of double digit cost increases we are beginning to see some slight slowdown in premium increases, but they are still growing at more than double the rate of regular inflation. Under health care reform, our state government has assumed a significant new burden that is not sustainable unless we tackle this very complex issue.

Since July of 2006, more than 50,000 people have signed up for the state’s Medicaid program which had over one million enrollees already – almost one of every six Massachusetts residents participates in this program. Since last October, over 92,000 individuals who earn less than 300% of the federal poverty level have signed up for heavily subsidized health insurance in a new state program called Commonwealth Care. It is great that all of these people now have access to health coverage. However, this also places very serious pressures on the state’s finances. We must immediately focus our collective attention on steps that can be taken to bring the costs of health care under control.

Of course none of this is going to be easy. But then again, two years ago very few people would have predicted that virtually all of the interest groups in Massachusetts - business, labor, advocates, insurers, providers, and government - would be able to reach a compromise to expand health care coverage to almost all our citizens. These same groups must now pledge to work together in a similar manner to ensure that the great progress we have made will continue in future years.

Richard C. Lord, President and CEO
Associated Industries of Massachusetts

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

Martha Bebinger Twitter Reporter
Martha Bebinger covers health care and other general assignments for WBUR.

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