Category Archives: Health Reform

The 2006 Massachusetts Health Care Reform Law

Source: Victoria Pulos, Clearinghouse Review, Vol. 40 nos. 11-12, March-April, 2007
(subscription required)

Massachusetts last year passed legislation designed to ensure universal health coverage for all its residents. Tens of thousands who were previously uninsured now have coverage, but the impact of the law’s individual mandate remains to be seen. Other states have taken notice, although Massachusetts’ relatively generous Medicaid program and highly regulated insurance market could make Massachusetts’ approach difficult to replicate. The intensive involvement of advocates in both the legislative and implementation efforts has been critical to shaping the health reform law to meet the needs of low-income residents.

Another Look at the Effect of State Mandates for Health Insurance Benefits

Source: Andrew Ma and Professor Scott Harrington, Wharton Scholars Research Journal, 2007

The research question we address is whether state laws that require health insurance policies to provide coverage for specified benefits have affected the size of the population without any private sector health insurance coverage. The laws are often alleged to increase the cost of insurance premiums and thus reduce incentives for smaller employers to offer and for individuals to purchase health insurance. Using data from the United States Census Current Population Survey (CPS) from 1996 to 2002, we measure the effects of 2 sets of high cost benefit mandates on the probability for workers to have health insurance through their employer. We use both individual and state level analyses. Generally we find weak and statistically insignificant effects associated with benefit mandates, though we see evidence that this relationship grows stronger over time.

The Great Divide: When Kids Get Sick, Insurance Matters

Source: Families USA, Publication no. 07-102, February 2007

Extensive research has documented the positive effects that health insurance has on a child’s physical, developmental, social, and emotional health. Children who have health insurance are more likely to have a relationship with the same doctor over time, receive regular well-child checkups, and have their medical, dental, vision, and other health care needs met. But what happens when an uninsured child is seriously injured or develops a condition that requires hospitalization? Does health insurance make a difference in the child’s treatment and health outcomes? The answer is an emphatic “yes.”

Unwilling Volunteers: Tennesseans Forced Out of Health Care

Source: Families USA, Publication no. 07-103, April 2007

In 2005, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen made the largest cuts in health coverage in our nation’s history. Thousands upon thousands of people were dropped from TennCare, the state’s innovative Medicaid program. Others who remained in the program had their benefits slashed. It was obvious that these drastic cuts would cause enormous harm. The governor, however, dismissed these concerns and moved forward with his plan.

Governor Bredesen not only touted his plan within Tennessee, but he also recommended that other states make similar changes. At the time he was promoting Medicaid cuts, many states were facing budget crunches and looking for ways to cut costs. The TennCare cuts became a potential forerunner of what could happen to health coverage programs across the country.

Against this backdrop, it is instructive to look beyond the numbers and see what has happened to the real people affected by the TennCare cuts—that is what this book is designed to do.

The States Step Up

Source: Marilyn Werber Serafini, National Journal, Vol. 39 no. 11, March 17, 2007
(subscription required)

The ink was barely dry on then-Gov. Mitt Romney’s bold new plan to achieve nearly universal health coverage for Massachusetts residents when Vermont Gov. James H. Douglas signed similar legislation into law last year. “We have a goal of 96 percent coverage within the next three years, and I think we can do that,” Douglas recently boasted to National Journal. “We’re going to be quite aggressive with enrollment.”

Other state officials had been closely watching this pair of Republican governors as they steered away from the safe political path to push plans requiring employers to either offer their employees health insurance or pay a compensating fee to the state. The Massachusetts Legislature went a controversial step further when it decided to require all residents to certify on their state income tax forms that they had health insurance — or face a penalty. Before Massachusetts and Vermont took the plunge, most politicians had spoken only in muffled tones about health care mandates, fearful of a backlash from constituents — voting constituents.

Moving Beyond Political Deadlock: Health Reform Initiatives in States

Source: Rachel Degolia, Perspectives on Work, Summer 2006, Volume 10, no. 2

The Massachusetts health reforms approved in April 2006 are indicative of a larger trend among states, in the absence of federal action, states—on the front lines of dealing with the nation’s health care crisis—have begun to take the lead on comprehensive health care reforms.

The state experiments bubbling up around the country illustrate not only the potential for real progress, but also the problems and pitfalls of state-based health care reform. As a result of state-level health policy developments, reform advocates must grapple with new challenges. These include the need to anticipate and address the political and social consequences of state mandates and to help states devise strategies for curtailing rapidly rising health care costs.

Building A Movement For Health Care: Key To Organizing The Unorganized?

Source: Wayne Nealis, WorkingUSA, Volume 9, Issue 1, March 2006
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
History shows that labor union membership increased rapidly in the United States in the last century only during periods when broad movements for social justice also existed. One of these movements was the fight for basic social benefits during the Great Depression; the other was the struggle to secure democratic rights and dignity for African-Americans during the Civil Rights movement. This article presents an argument as to why labor should join in leading an offensive for single-payer national health insurance (NHI), not only to win health care for all, but to help jump start a broader social and economic justice movement that could create a socio-political climate that is more conducive to organizing the unorganized.