On June 21, 2005,Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney unveiled the details of a comprehensive health reform plan he is proposing for his State.Governor Romney unveiled the plan at a conference convened by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts (BCBSMA) on measures to expand coverage to the 500,000 uninsured individuals living in Massachusetts. Following Governor Romney's address, GNYHA President Kenneth E. Raske participated in a panel session during which he addressed the more than 300 health care, business, labor, consumer, and government leaders who were in attendance. Governor John Baldacci of Maine also participated on the panel.
The conference was the second in a series of forums that are part of the BCBSMA's Roadmap to Coverage initiative, which is designed to inform the debate about how to expand coverage in Massachusetts and to develop a roadmap for achieving this goal.
Keynote Address: Governor Romney outlined key elements of his plan, including the requirement that all Massachusetts residents have health insurance. To assist those who cannot afford coverage, Governor Romney proposes the creation of two private, affordable insurance products -Safety Net Care,which would provide subsidized private health insurance with comprehensive benefits and modest cost sharing to lower-income individuals who earn too much to qualify for the State's Medicaid program; and Commonwealth Care, which would offer comprehensive coverage,without a direct subsidy, to uninsured individuals with incomes higher than 300% of the Federal poverty level. The plan also calls for the pretax payment of premiums for Commonwealth Care, resulting in premium savings of 15-30%. These measures, coupled with more vigorous efforts to enroll qualified individuals into the Medicaid program and incentives for more employers to cover their workers, would make affordable coverage available to all the State's uninsured residents, according to Governor Romney.
Panel Session: Professor Robert Blendon, Sc.D., of Harvard University, moderated a panel that included Mr. Raske, Governor Baldacci, and Lesley Cummings, a California health insurance official. Mr. Raske discussed the political, financial, and moral imperative for diverse interest groups to come together in each state to develop solutions to the uninsured problem.He cited as a successful example the Health Care Education Project, a joint initiative of GNYHA and 1199 SEIU that has helped enact important health insurance legislation in New York, such as Family Health Plus, and works to protect Medicaid and other safety net programs. Governor Baldacci updated the audience on the status of the comprehensive health reform plan he enacted shortly after he was elected in 2003, which includes measures to control the growth of health care costs and ensure access to affordable coverage for small businesses and uninsured individuals in Maine. Ms. Cummings discussed lessons that Massachusetts could learn from the passage and subsequent repeal of legislation that would have required employers in California to either provide insurance to their employees or pay a fee to cover workers through a State-administered program.