One year ago, on April 4, 2007, the Joint House-Senate Conference Committee on Health Care Reform endorsed the legislation that became Chapter 58 of the Acts of 2006. A great deal has been accomplished since that historic day!
As of the end of March 2007, more than 100,000 previously uninsured Massachusetts residents now have insurance, and access to primary health care and the health screening and prevention that coverage brings. Over 60,000 of these individuals are enrolled in Commonwealth Care, including about 14,000 who have purchased the new low cost plans without subsidies. Clearly some residents are recognizing the value of health insurance and finding the new plans to be affordable. Nearly 50,000 Medicaid eligible, but un-enrolled have been added to the ranks of Mass Health members.
Beyond expanding access, many other positive steps are being taken as part of the implementation of Chapter 58. The Commonwealth Connector has set standards for “creditable coverage” that will drive improvements for the under-insured residents as well as set the tone for the new low cost health insurance products. The Department of Public Health has initiated a statewide infection control program that will save lives and reduce health care costs. The new first-in-the nation Pediatric Palliative Care program is providing compassionate care services to terminally and seriously ill children and their families. The newly reorganized Massachusetts Public Health Council is taking office comprised of true public health experts. The Quality and Cost Council has finally got organized and begun to hire staff although more money will be needed in the budget for the Council to realize its potential to improve quality and contain costs. In my opinion, the Council and its success in promoting quality and developing “pay for performance” standards are critical to the sustainability not only of the new Commonwealth Care insurance, but to the viability of our entire employer-based health insurance system.
There is more to be accomplished in the new 2007-2008 General Court that will strengthen and build upon the solid foundation established in Chapter 58. We need to expand prevention efforts such as preventing falls, or at least serious injuries from fall. We need to get hospital-acquired infections to as near zero as possible. We must address the pressures created by our broken medical malpractice system which fails to help most of those injured by the system without helping us to learn from the mistakes that occur. As Speaker DiMasi stated in one of his earlier statements on this blog, successful implementation of Health Care Reform continues to be one of our highest priorities in this new legislative term, and we can certainly take encouragement from the progress of the past year.
Senator Richard T. Moore is the Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. He was an architect of the Massachusetts health care reform law.
This program aired on April 4, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.