PUNDITS and politicians who oppose universal healthcare for the nation have a new straw man to kick around – the Massachusetts reform plan that covers more than 97 percent of the states residents. In the myth that these critics have manufactured, this state’s plan is bleeding taxpayers dry, creating nothing less than a medical Big Dig.
The facts – according to the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation – are quite different. Its report this spring put the cost to the state taxpayer at about $88 million a year, less than four-tenths of 1 percent of the state budget of $27 billion. Yes, the state recently had to cut benefits for legal immigrants, and safety-net hospital Boston Medical Center has sued for higher state aid. But that is because the recession has cut state revenues, not because universal healthcare is a boondoggle. The main reason costs to the state have been well within expectations? More than half of all the previously uninsured got coverage by buying into their employers plans, not by opting for one of the state-subsidized plans.
The real test will be on how this plan work over the next five years or so. If Massachusetts manages to cover virtually everyone, control costs and maintain quality health care, it will be all the more difficult for right to protest it. And it will make it all the more easy to convert whatever passes as Obama-care into the Massachusetts plan.