No one thought it would be cheap. The question was, would it be effective?
And now the latest report from Massachusetts on its universal health care plan is this: two-thirds of the 600,000 or so Bay Staters who were uninsured two years ago now have coverage. Just under half of them bought their insurance through the private sector; the rest are in subsidized plans -- hence the increase in costs.
While the state is locked in a fierce battle to figure out how to pay for its success--it's bigger and sooner than expected--there is some payback. With emergency room visits down, the state reports it spent 41 percent less for uncompensated care in the first quarter of fiscal 2008 than it did in the same period in the prior year. That came to $68 million less in cash the state had to lay out.
Just to put these numbers into some kind of perspective, a recent Web report from Health Affairs found that government programs pay for about three-quarters -- or roughly $43 billion -- of the uncompensated care bill. A chunk of that bill -- $15 billion -- is paid by state and local governments.
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.