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Commentary

The Massachusetts Health Plan: Lessons for the States
Robert E. Moffit, Ph.D., Nina Owcharenko, Heritage Backgrounder, 7-18-06

Heritage Foundation fellows Nina Owcharenko and Robert E. Moffitt take a look at Massachusetts' new health plan and size up its strengths and weaknesses. They conclude that other elected officials could learn a lot from the Bay State.

Massachusetts officials have made significant strides in reforming their health insurance market, and other states can learn from the Massachusetts experience. States should build on the solid features of the Connector: the establishment of a statewide health insurance exchange to allow individuals to buy and own health insurance without losing favor–able tax treatment and direct assistance to low–income individuals and families for the purchase of private coverage using existing government funds. Likewise, states should reject certain problematic features of the final plan, such as the employer mandate and public program expansions, and improve other aspects of the plan.

Every state wrestles with the impact that rising health care costs and numbers of uninsured have on the economy and budget. Nonetheless, every state has its own health care delivery system that operates in a unique political, cultural, and legal, and regulatory climate. While the Massachusetts plan is clearly not perfect, it does make some crucial conceptual breakthroughs in health policy. Furthermore, the process itself illustrates that states, regardless of their differing characteristics, can tackle the difficult health care issues that thus far have stymied federal policymakers.



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