MA and federal health care reforms

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Pioneer has never taken a “position” on the MA Health Care Reform Act of 2006. We’ve held events (1, 2, and others) discussing the merits and weaknesses, and we’ve published a paper on how we should monitor its implementation and make corrections.

We are worried about cost implications, crowd-out of the private market and other stuff, but we like state experimentation and we think it should be gauged largely by the empirical question: Has it worked? Our Senior Fellow on Health Care Amy Lischko will help us answer those questions.

Those who use it as a justification for federal efforts to recast our health care options, however, are just plain uninformed. The fact is we are only getting to know the results of the MA experiment. And we will begin releasing our report card on access, financing and other aspects of the MA reform over the next month.

The basic difference that we know about the HC reform effort in MA and currently underway among the feds is that we took our time and Romney, DiMasi and Travaglini all worked collegially, without too much care about party lines. The federal effort is just plain muscle. The president, Speaker of the House and Senate President are trying to jam an effort down the throats of the Republicans, and the Republicans are resorting to pitchforks and tea parties.

The claims on both sides of the aisle are pretty much the handiwork of the chieftains of Fairyland. The Wall Street Journal ed page sums it up well:

We have now reached the stage of the health-care debate when all that matters is getting a bill passed, so all news is good news, more subsidies mean lower deficits, and more expensive insurance is really cheaper insurance. The nonpolitical mind reels.

The CBO finds that the Senate bill will drive premiums in the individual market higher by 10% to 13% beyond what would be the case if we sat on our hands. Yet as the WSJ notes

“No Big Cost Rise in U.S. Premiums Is Seen in Study,” said the New York Times, while the Washington Post declared, “Senate Health Bill Gets a Boost.” The White House crowed that the CBO report was “more good news about what reform will mean for families struggling to keep up with skyrocketing premiums under the broken status quo.”

How is that possible? After all

CBO is confirming that new coverage mandates will drive premiums higher. But Democrats are declaring victory, claiming that these higher insurance prices don’t count because they will be offset by new government subsidies. About 57% of the people who buy insurance through the bill’s new “exchanges” that will supplant today’s individual market will qualify for subsidies that cover about two-thirds of the total premium.

Ugh. The states are meant to be labs of innovation. I grow very weary of the great minds and egos in DC.