Commonwealth Connector Needs Repairs, Study Says

By: - March 25, 2011 12:00 am

NOT CONNECTING: The Commonwealth Connector, Massachusetts ‘ version of a health insurance exchange, has failed to attract many small business purchasers and individuals who are not eligible for subsidies. That’s the assessment of a new report from a nonpartisan, privately funded research group in the state, the Pioneer Institute. Small businesses and individuals who do not qualify for subsidies make up only 1.5 percent of the Connector’s membership. And less than 1 percent of small group insurance purchases in the state are made through the exchange, the report found. Although Massachusetts’ groundbreaking health care overhaul became the model for the federal health law, the report’s author said the Connector needs repairs before it can comply.

TOO LENIENT: Obama administration officials expected kudos from their GOP critics for loosening rules governing insurance companies under the federal health care law. Instead, Republican leaders are using the waivers as evidence that the law is flawed, The New York Times reports.   For example, the paper quoted Senator Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming , asking, “If the law is so good, why are so many waivers needed?” Numerous companies and labor unions have gotten waivers allowing them to offer cut-rate insurance policies that do not comply with the law.  Maine recently got a waiver from a requirement that insurance companies spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on medical care. Florida , Georgia , Kentucky , Nevada and New Hampshire have requested similar waivers, and at least a dozen other states are expected to so the same.

SINGLE-PAYER MOVES: On a vote of 89 to 47, The Vermont House gave preliminary approval to a bill designed to move the state toward a single-payer health care system. The legislation to create what is being called “Green Mountain Care” is a top priority for Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin, who says the current system is too expensive. Opponents argue the radical change, considered too liberal to serve as a national model when Congress debated health care, would mean dismantling the state’s already top-notch health care system. The legislation is now headed for the state Senate.

FAST TRACK: Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli asked the U.S. Supreme court this week to skip the appeals process and quickly hear a case brought by Florida and 25 other states challenging the constitutionality of the Obama administration’s health care law. In his petition, Cuccinelli argued that short-cutting the normal appeals process was justified, because of “the crippling uncertainty faced by the country until those issues are resolved.”  On the same day — March 23, the one year anniversary of the federal law’s enactment — Republican Governor Bob McDonnel slammed the federal law for its “unprecedented intrusion on America’s strong free enterprise system” and “enormous unfunded mandates.”

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Christine Vestal

Christine Vestal covers mental health and drug addiction for Stateline. Previously, she covered health care for McGraw-Hill and the Financial Times.