American Elephants


Scare Tactics? No, Real Life Evidence, Scary As It Is. by The Elephant's Child
August 6, 2009, 8:44 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Freedom, Health Care | Tags: , , ,

In 2006, the State of Massachusetts adopted a health care plan that required every resident to get health insurance and required every business to provide it.  Otherwise, residents and employers would be fined.  This was the nation’s first state universal health insurance program.  It was to be the test ground to see how universal health coverage by the government would work here in the United States.  It was to be the model that could be replicated around the country.

Within weeks of the deadline to have everyone signed up, the state hadn’t accurately budgeted for the program. 95 percent of doctors weren’t accepting new patients.  Many doctors were leaving the state.  Rationing of services, reductions in benefits and growing waits for care began.  To keep the program solvent, Massachusetts cut payments to doctors and hospitals, reduced choices for patients, and was looking at increasing out-of-pocket expenses for patients.

By February of 2008, the state was asking the Federal government for help.  Only two years old, and already in trouble.

With the national health care debate now heating up, the obvious question is ‘what can we learn from the Massachusetts experiment?  The state treasurer says “Whatever you do, don’t do what we did.”

State treasurer Tim Cahill offered some startling statistics:

  • The program has so far cost 30 percent more than anticipated.  It already has a $9 billion shortfall projected over the nest two years.
  • Costs have risen 41 percent since the program’s inception, well outpacing the rise in healthcare costs nationwide, which stands at 18 percent.
  • We thought the program would mean that fewer people would go to hospitals, the highest costs that insurance plans have to pay.  That wasn’t true.
  • A Harvard study shows that 60 percent of residents are unhappy with the plan.  The unhappiest are those making $25,000 to $50,000 –those whom it should be helping the most.
  • To cut costs, the program has kicked out 30,000 legal immigrants.

Costs for Commonwealth Care (the subsidized program) soared from $158 million in the first year to $630 million in 2007, then doubled in 2009 to $1.3 billion.  Enrollment is now at 181,000 up from 165,000 in the early spring, and is expected to reach 212,000 next year.

Government managed health care has consistently failed.  The Indian Health Service — jokes say that if you get sick, do it before June, for that’s when they run out of money.  The VA has improved some, but much care is still substandard according to those who rely on it.  Hawaii flirted briefly with universal children’s insurance, and quickly dropped it as it was proving far too expensive. In 1994 Tennessee implemented managed care in its Medicaid program, with a system called TennCare.  They thought they would use the anticipated savings from Medicaid to fund and expand coverage for children and the uninsured.  It nearly bankrupted the state, reduced the quality of care and collapsed from it own deficiencies.

A government cannot promise to insure everyone, offer free care,  increase the quality of care and reduce costs.  It cannot happen.  It is a fantasy.

Fantasies work fine in the movies and in novels, but indulging in fantasy in real life can have real-life consequences.

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