WSJ: Health care drives Gov race

The Wall Street Journal reports on the role of health care in the governor’s race.

BOSTON—High health-care costs are so sensitive in Massachusetts that when two health-care company executives suggested consumers could help by watching their weight, the Boston Herald ran a sarcastic page-one headline: “It’s Your Fault, Fatso.”

That sensitivity has been at the forefront in a three-way race for governor, with incumbent Deval Patrick struggling to save his seat, and may offer a glimpse of how the health-care overhaul will play out on the national stage in elections to come.

Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick. Polls show a majority in the state still support the state’s 2006 health-care overhaul.

Four years after Massachusetts passed a health-care overhaul similar to the recently enacted national plan, small businesses are seeing their premiums rise 22% this year. People in the state have some of the highest premiums in the nation.

Mr. Patrick, a Democrat, is being challenged by Charlie Baker, a Republican and former health-insurance executive, and Tim Cahill, an independent sharply critical of the state and federal health-care overhauls.

But the political lessons of Massachusetts’s experience aren’t clear-cut. Polls show a majority in the state still support the 2006 overhaul, which has brought health coverage to more than 97% of the population, suggesting that once a system of near-universal health coverage takes root, it is hard to dislodge.

What does “some of the highest premiums in the country” mean. We also have some of the highest rents, salaries etc…

A little context here would help. This from an 8/09 Globe story:

Massachusetts has the most expensive family health insurance premiums in the country, according to a new analysis that highlights the state’s challenge in trying to rein in medical costs after passage of a landmark 2006 law that mandated coverage for nearly everyone.

The report by the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit health care foundation, showed that the average family premium for plans offered by employers in Massachusetts was $13,788 in 2008, 40 percent higher than in 2003. Over the same period, premiums nationwide rose an average of 33 percent.

The report did not break out how much premiums have increased in Massachusetts since the 2006 changes went into effect, so it does not show whether the law affected the rate of price increases. Still, with the state’s law often cited as a model for a national health care overhaul, advocates on various sides of the issue said the report underscores the urgency of including cost controls in any large-scale federal or state overhaul.

The Commonwealth Fund also ranks states on a scorecard that compares “their performance with that of other states across key indicators of health system performance.” Here’s how we did:

Massachusetts Tables

Massachusetts

Rankings

  • Overall : 7
  • Access: 1
  • Prevention & Treatment: 5
  • Avoidable Hospital Use & Costs: 33
  • Equity: 7
  • Healthy Lives: 6

Also, NYTimes has a story on a effort to limit the price of  insurance.

WASHINGTON — The White House on Monday will issue new rules that strongly discourage employers from cutting health insurance benefits or increasing the costs of coverage to employees, administration officials say.

The rules limit the changes that employers can make if they want to be exempt from certain provisions of the health care law passed by Congress in March. Many employers want the exemption because it allows them to keep their existing health plans intact with a minimum of changes. More than 170 million Americans have employer-sponsored insurance.

The administration said the rules would allow a smooth transition to a new, more competitive insurance market that works better for consumers. But in some respects, the rules appear to fall short of the sweeping commitments President Obama made while trying to reassure the public in the fight over health legislation.

 

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