Universal Coverage –Why Massachusetts is the Last Place to Begin the Experiment

At the Massachusetts Medical Society’s 8th Annual Leadership Forum last Wednesday, Dr. Steven Schroeder, former head of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
and Distinguished Professor of Health and Health Care at the University
of California, San Francisco, told a provocative story about a poll
that asked patients in the U.S. `Canada,  Australia, New Zealand and
the U.K the following question:

“If your personal doctor told you that you had an incurable and fatal
disease, would you accept that diagnosis or seek a second opinion?

  • In the U.S.           91 percent of patients said they would seek a second opinion.
  • In Canada            80 percent                    “        “       “       “     “     “           “ 
  • In Australia          71 percent                  “        “   
  • In New Zealand     51 percent
  • In the U.K.           28 percent 

“You have to love the British,” Schroeder commented. “You can just hear
an Englishman saying ‘Well, Luv, it’s been a good life, hasn’t it? Now
let’s make a pot of tea and discuss the funeral arrangements.”

At the other end of the spectrum, we find the Americans who, Schroeder
noted, “are the only people in the world who expect to live ‘in

Today, I would like to suggest that our expectations as patients help
to explain why we spend roughly twice as much per person on health care
as most developed countries—even when, overall, it’s not clear that our
healthcare is better. In fact, in some areas outcomes are worse.

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Massachusetts Health Reform: The Canary in the Gold Mine?

Advocates for health care reform have been keeping an eye on Massachusetts, hopeful that its new health reform law will serve as a pilot program for the nation.

I’m much less hopeful than I was two days ago.

Yesterday I attended the Massachusetts Medical Society’s Eighth Annual Leadership Forum where I was one of four speakers. This year, the Society (which owns The New England Journal of Medicine)  focused on the cost of health care –with a special emphasis on funding universal coverage in Massachusetts. The new was not good. While the citizens of   Massachusetts believe that everyone has a right to health care (when polled 92% say “yes”), no one wants to pay for universal coverage.   When asked “if the only way to make sure that everyone can get the health care services they need is to have a substantial increase in taxes [should we do it] 55% said “no.”

One speaker at the forum recalled a man who explained why taxpayers shouldn’t have to pick up the bill: “The government should pay for it.” (He didn’t disclose who he thinks “the government” is. )

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If We Mandate Insurance, Should 20-Somethings Pay Less?

Should insurers be able to offer less expensive policies to the young and healthy? Or should they be required to offer the same benefits to everyone at the same price?

In states where insurance is mandated, should twenty-somethings get a break? In a post on Health Care Policy and Marketplace Blog Robert Laszewski addresses these questions. He begins by focusing on a report  just released by the health insurance trade association (AHIP). The study looks at state health insurance reforms of the 1990s that tried to eliminate discrimination by insisting that insurers must sell “individual” policies to people who are not covered by an employer or another group without discriminating on the basis of health, age or gender. According to the AHIP, these reforms have had some “unintended consequences.”

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