Doug Henwood: As I was reading the New York Times the other day, boy, it sounded like the second coming of Christ or something: Governor Mitt Romney, Democrats, and Republicans of Massachusetts coming together to produce this wonderful, innovative, post-partisan universal health care system. Is it as good as it sounds?Click here to listen to the rest of the show.
Steffie Woolhandler: Well, I think it's really a hoax. What the bill does is it creates an individual mandate and tells people that they have to purchase their own health insurance. That will apply primarily to middle-income people. And the bill says that there are just going to be affordable comprehensive policies available. But of course there are no affordable comprehensive policies available to individuals in the state. The average individual policy costs $4,500 a year. So, it's a little like saying that the legislature is going to make chocolate chip cookies with no sugar or fat or calories. The other provisions of the bill are extremely generous toward the major hospitals in town. They are extremely generous to the private health insurance industry, since all of the new health insurance would be purchased at the private insurance industry. So, hospitals and the insurance industry lobbied pretty hard for the bill. The only piece of the bill that an advocate might like would be some modest Medicaid expansions, but they don't come anywhere close to covering the three quarters of a million people in the state who have no health insurance.
See, also, Steffie Woolhandler and David U. Himmelstein, "Massachusetts' Health Bill Failed Before, Will Again" (Atlanta Journal-Constitution 7 April 2006).