ProsThe overwhelming positive of Massachusetts' Mandatory Health-Insurance program is that all state residents will have health care insurance and services, regardless of household income levels.
Health insurance for all will cause an appreciable increase in the quality of life in Massachusetts, including an increase in life expectancy and decrease in infant mortality.
Public health betterment is commonly associated with a corresponding increase in work productivity for adults and increased school attendance for children.
The other major positive of Massachusetts' Mandatory Health-Insurance program is the groundswell of popular and broad political support for this innovative initiative.
Both liberals and conservatives found that the merits of the program outweighed negative elements, and voted to pass this major legislative reform.
Additionally, Governor Romney wisely enlisted a bipartisan coalition from the worlds of business, academia and government to craft the legislation. Thus, goals and concerns from various constituencies were integrated in the design of Massachusetts' Mandatory Health Insurance program.
ConsThis is a brief list of important concerns about Massachusetts' new Mandatory Health Insurance program.
-- Looming questions remain about the long-term financial viability of the plan.
-- The program grants enormous power to special interest groups to collect health care data on all citizens, and imposes stiff fines on health care providers who fail to fully share "confidential" patient data. It's unclear with whom patient data may be shared or who holds legal ownership of the data.
-- The program ensures public access to basic health care, but it doesn't grant equal access to high-quality health care. Inevitably under any "personal payment" plan, the wealthy will obtain higher quality and timelier health care services, and will have access to a broader range of services and tests.
-- As health costs rise, services for the poor under this plan could be cut, and for those paying the partially-subsidized premiums, costs and deductibles could significantly rise .
-- The program is administered by a "health-care quality and cost council" composed entirely of unelected bureaucrats and political appointments. The council does not answer to the state Health & Human Services department.
-- Libertarians, who are usually fiscal and political conservatives but social moderates, balk at government mandates that override individual decision-making freedoms.
Where It StandsMassachusetts' Mandatory Health Insurance program will become effective on July 1, 2007. Hundreds of program details remain to be worked before then.
Experts believe that the long-term effectiveness of the program depends on continued affordability of insurance premiums, and adequacy of health care services and benefits included under policy coverages.
Many states have tried and failed to implement statewide comprehensive health care packages, most notably California, which has been unsuccessful in three attempts over 14 years.
The Massachusetts program has considerable bipartisan support, though, which will help it to prosper where others have failed.
Experts also question whether the concepts behind the Massachusetts Mandatory Health Insurance program are transferable to other states. This small northeastern state possesses certain unique conditions, including a significantly lower-than -average percentage of residents without insurance, and an established $1 billion pool to fund the program.
The New York Times summarized it well in an April 15, 2006 editorial, "Lots of details must still be worked out, and there are already concerns that the financial underpinnings of the plan are shaky.
But Massachusetts deserves credit for tackling a problem that Washington is failing to address."