Bad side effects of the Massachusetts health plan

First a bit of business.

 RECONCILIATION: If you are wondering was reconciliation really means, check out this primer from the ever-reliable Bill Erwin at the D.C.-based Alliance for Health Reform

 The Health Wonk Review is up at the Health Policy Analysis blog. This week’s edition is hosted by D. Brad Wright, a grad student at the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research.  (Go Heels!)

MASS PLAN — What would we do without the trade press?  Reporters at independent business publications – as opposed to boosterish newsletters from trade associations – break stories all the time. They have time to work their beats. A local example would be Mass Device, which covers the medical device industry. (Disclosure – I was one of their bloggers for a few months last year.)

 So, it is not surprising that long-time health reporter Trudy Lieberman found a great a story on how the Mass Plan has worked to the disadvantage of low wage worker. According to a story in Workforce Management, some minimum wage workers at, for example, don’t qualify for state subsidies if their employers pay 1/3 of their premium. So, Jeremy Smerd writes, some are being forced to take expensive employer coverage that can eat up nearly half a paycheck.

 Soon after Massachusetts state legislators passed a law in 2006 requiring full-time workers to buy health coverage from employers that offered it, Mirlene Desrosiers, a home health care worker, traded the state health insurance she could afford for an employer plan she could not.

      Because her weekly gross income was a mere $500, she could have dropped insurance altogether and been exempt from paying a penalty. But with two small children and a physically demanding job that regularly entails lifting elderly patients, she felt that going without health coverage would have been irresponsible.

      To pay her health insurance premium of $287 a week, she upped her hours, often working more than 120 hours a week at four different health care companies. She says she lives to work and works to pay for health insurance.

Here in Massachusetts, the group Health Care for All had been lobbying around a related concern – high co-payments and deductable that low income patients can’t afford. More on their Affordable Care Today effort here.

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