June 24, 2009

Boston Globe Story Describes MA’s State-Run Health Care As ‘Trailblazing’ As Its Problems Deepen; Will OBC/ABC Notice?

RomneySignsHealthBill0406.jpgThere may be no limit to how far establishment media reporters will go in their attempt to prop up the public perception of failing state-run health care programs.

The latest example comes from Massachusetts. The Bay State’s CommonwealthCare (aka RomneyCare, so nicknamed because Governor Mitt Romney, rumored to be a Republican and pictured at right, championed the legislation’s passage and signed the bill in 2006) continues to implode — as anyone with a brain could have predicted, and as many, including yours truly (fourth item at link), did predict.

Despite deep cuts, which essentially amount to large-scale rationing of care and cash-starving of providers, the Boston Globe’s Kay Lazar, in an allegedly straight news story, felt compelled to describe the state’s health care arrangement as “trailblazing,” and to characterize a 12% budget cut as “trimming.”

Here are key paragraphs from what amounts to Lazar’s lament, with “rationing” tags added by yours truly for emphasis:

State cuts its health coverage by $115m
Board to slow enrollment in Commonwealth Care

Overseers of Massachusetts’ trailblazing healthcare program made their first cuts yesterday, trimming $115 million, or 12 percent, from Commonwealth Care, which subsidizes premiums for needy residents and is the centerpiece of the 2006 law.

….. The largest share of the savings will come from slowing enrollment. (rationing) An estimated 18,000 poor residents who qualify for full subsidies, but who forget to designate a health plan, will no longer be automatically assigned a plan and enrolled and thus could face delays in getting care. (bureaucratic rationing)

The board also eliminated dental coverage for the poorest residents enrolled in Commonwealth Care, roughly 92,000 people who currently are the only ones in the program who receive that care. (rationing) Regulators said that would save $10 million. Dental coverage was retained in the budget approved by lawmakers last week, and now it falls to the governor to decide its fate.

Also hanging in the balance is the health insurance status of 28,000 legal immigrants whose Commonwealth Care coverage was dropped in the budget lawmakers approved for the fiscal year that begins July 1. (rationing) Governor Deval Patrick has until Monday to decide whether to veto any of that budget, which set aside $116 million less for Commonwealth Care than he proposed.

….. But Kirwan said the $115 million in cuts the Connector Authority board approved yesterday were merely to deal with shrinking state revenues and the rapid growth in enrollment in Commonwealth Care, which has 177,000 members and was projected to grow to 212,000 in the next year.

….. Patrick Holland, the Connector Authority’s chief financial officer, said enrollment spiked during the last three months, from 165,000 to nearly 177,000 members, because so many workers are losing their jobs and, with that, employer-provided health insurance.

The progress of the Massachusetts healthcare initiative is being closely watched in Washington, where Congress is crafting national legislation to extend coverage to more Americans. The Massachusetts law, cited as one model in the national debate, requires nearly everyone to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty.

….. Leaders of Health Care for All, one of the state’s largest consumer groups, said the changes will be especially hard on residents whose first language is not English and who have difficulty understanding the complex enrollment paperwork. (bureaucratic rationing)

….. Much of the rest of the $115 million in savings, $32 million, comes from slowing payments to the managed-care health insurance companies that won bids to offer insurance through the Commonwealth Care program.

“Trailblazing”? How about “earth-scorching?”

When’s the last time anyone in the establishment media described a 12% cut in a government program as “trimming”? Much smaller cuts, or even reductions in projected spending that are actually increases, have usually been accompanied by descriptive adjectives like “slashing,” “stripping,” “slicing,” “gutting,” etc. But there is apparently no cow more sacred than state-run health care, so a 12% cut is only “trimming.”

Two other points:

  • The $32 million in “slowing payments” looks like a cash-flow gimmick that saves no long-term dollars. But it does reduce capital available at the managed-care companies, who will have to consider how cavalier the state is about paying its bills on time when quoting premiums for future coverage.
  • We can only hope that Ms. Lazar is right that “The progress of the Massachusetts healthcare initiative is being closely watched in Washington.” If it is, people will reject what President Obama and Congress are proposing, which in many ways, including the odious penalties for not buying insurance, mimics the Massacusetts mess.

One of the litmus tests today and tonight at OBC — er, I mean ABC, where they’re getting quite testy — will be whether anyone dares to cite the train wreck in Massachusetts, and whether anyone in the administration is forced into a coherent explanation of how the federal program will somehow work out differently. If it comes up, I’m afraid the answer will be on the order of “Poor little Massachusetts, they’re trying to do something as one state that will only work when managed nationally. We’ll do it right.” Horse manure.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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3 Comments

  1. I don’t have a problem with the Mass plan rationing out the benefits. If I was a taxpayer there I would be all for that.It is only an issue when that is the only option you have and there are no private affordable options any longer because they have all been forced out of business. If you have employer paid insurance then do you really care? I don’t expect a government insurance plan to be gold plated. It should be bare bones, weighted toward preventative. the problem is that they talk about competition but seek to minimize real competition at every turn. Community rating. Can’t buy across state lines. Minimum coverage mandates. We are all gonna be fed a crap sandwich and be told its prime rib.

    Comment by Johnny Lumber — June 24, 2009 @ 3:20 pm

  2. If I was a Massachusetts taxpayer, I’d be upset that I have to pay for an unnecessary inherently crappy state-run health care program (irregardless of whether I already have other insurance or ever intend to use the state system) in the first place. The fact that they now have to resort to cold inhumane rationing (and you assume that just because the private option is there that everybody has access to it or can switch to it in time to avoid the rationing) in order to make the program more solvent would not make me feel better.

    Once the government enters into any marketplace, they already distort competition because the governments power and money resources (no matter how badly used) gives it a leg up on private industry. So instead of a bare bones government insurance plan, how about none at all? (And the whole preventive angle is an invitation to government running your life in order to “prevent” you from being what they consider on the road to unhealthiness.) Government has no business in health care insurance anymore than it does in the toy making industry.

    Comment by zf — June 25, 2009 @ 12:25 am

  3. [...] known as CommonwealthCare aka RomneyCare that is failing so miserably (noted at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog) in [...]

    Pingback by UNDER THE RADAR: ABC NEWS – OBAMA HEALTHCARE EVENT BOMBS IN RATINGS: OBAMA ADMITS HE WOULD GET “VERY BEST CARE” FOR HIS FAMILY OUTSIDE HIS PROPOSED NATIONAL HEALH PROGRAM | Help The Middle Class — June 28, 2009 @ 4:53 pm

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