Today’s Wall Street Journal debate between Grace-Marie Turner and Michael Widmer, as to whether Massachusetts’s health-care policies have been a thriving success or a colossal failure, prompts a few thoughts. In honor of the upcoming World Series, here are seven quick points (one for each possible game):
1. If Massachusetts is in fact evidence of a very successful state-run effort at health-care reform, then why is it implicitly viewed by Widmer and others as evidence that we can’t afford to rely on state-run efforts at health-care reform, but should instead do everything nationally in a one-size-fits-all manner?
2. If it is instead a miserable failure, then why would we want to impose that failure from coast to coast?
3. If people can’t at all agree as to whether it’s a success or failure, which seems to be the case, then why not let the states that like it emulate it, while leaving those that don’t like it free to steer clear?
4. The Census Bureau’s statistics on the number of uninsured are based on how many people lacked health insurance all year long for the previous year, and the Massachusetts state figures are likely tallied in the same way. A more telling figure for Massachusetts would be the number of people who stay on insurance all year long, given the massive incentives — which the Democrats are trying to replicate nationally — to jump on and off of insurance as one so chooses.
5. In combination, Turner’s and Widmer’s two pieces seemingly grant that Massachusetts has the highest health-care premiums in the country, at $13,788 per family, and that its premiums are slated to rise another 7–12 percent next year.
6. In combination, the two pieces assert that Massachusetts has a state budget of roughly $30 billion and is in the midst of receiving roughly an extra $3.5 billion a year in Medicaid funds from Washington as part of a waiver request to help implement its health-care program. An annual Washington handout that’s the equivalent of 12 percent of the state’s entire budget is an awfully big boost. One wonders whether the U.N. would possibly pony up 12 percent of the United States federal budget to help finance Obamacare.
7. In combination, the two pieces seemingly grant that Massachusetts employers aren’t yet dumping people onto the government-run plan to any great extent. But Massachusetts employers have to compete with employers in 49 other states and thus with the private health-care plans that those employers offer. So, Massachusetts employers have a strong disincentive to dump employees onto the government-run plan. If all employers nationwide, however, had the option of choosing the public plan for their employees, and were not competing against any stateside employers who didn’t have that option (and that incentive), then the incentives for employers would profoundly change, and private insurance policies would soon join Cubs World Championship banners as relics of the past.