States Seek To Reform Health Care Systems After Passage Of Massachusetts Law

The Wall Street Journal on Saturday examined how Massachusetts health care legislation signed by Gov. Mitt Romney (R) earlier this year “is drawing attention from politicians in other states,” who “say they are inspired by the bipartisan nature of the Massachusetts law.” The successful passage of Massachusetts’ law has “revived” efforts for universal coverage that have “largely … been off the table since the Clinton health plan failed a decade ago,” the Journal reports. Amy Lischko, commissioner of the Massachusetts Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, said she has received calls from government officials and advocacy groups in dozens of states because “[a]ll of their governors were telling them: Look at the Massachusetts bill and see if there’s anything applicable.” In addition, the federal government’s expected approval of Massachusetts’ law is encouraging other states to try new approaches to health care, the Journal reports. “The most significant thing is, the federal government is open to creative ideas,” Jason Helgerson, policy director for Wisconsin’s secretary of health and family services, said. He added, “That’s a big change.” One of the states that is experimenting with health care is Vermont, where Gov. James Douglas (R) last week signed a bill that will offer low-income residents subsidies to acquire health insurance. The law is expected to cover about half of the state’s 60,000 uninsured residents, with the remaining half expected to be covered by Medicaid. Jason Gibbs, a spokesperson for Douglas, said, “We looked at it and we said, ‘If Ted Kennedy and the overwhelmingly Democrat Legislature in Massachusetts can come to an agreement with a Republican governor around the idea of private insurance plans, then Vermont should be able to do it, too.” Other states that are considering legislation modeled after provisions in the Massachusetts law include Michigan, New York and Wisconsin (Zhang, Wall Street Journal, 5/27).

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