Much progress on health insurance

September 29, 2009

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IN HIS Sept. 23d oped, “Mandatory insurance: Yes, it’s a tax,’’ Jeff Jacoby claims Massachusetts is not the “Eden of health insurance’’ because not everyone in the state has coverage. What he neglected to point out is that Massachusetts has the lowest rate of uninsured people in the nation by far. More than 97 percent of residents have health insurance, compared with the US average of 85 percent.

Jacoby also claims that the Massachusetts health reform law has increased premium costs. Not so. Premiums were rising before reform. The first phase of our reform law was not structured to address premium costs in the commercial market. However, phase two “cost containment’’ is underway now. And, it is a fact that premium costs for the Health Connector’s Commonwealth Care plans have been held to an average 4.7 percent increase since the inception of the program in 2006, a sharp contrast to increases in the rest of the market.

Reform also brought substantial rate relief to the non-group, or individual, market in Massachusetts. The merger of the non-group and the small group markets, implementation of a requirement that individuals who can afford it purchase insurance, and the development of an insurance exchange have reduced premiums substantially for Massachusetts residents who buy insurance directly as individuals through the non-group market.

The writer is executive director of the Massachusetts Health Connector.

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