In 2006, Massachusetts underwent a massive health care overhaul that would eventually serve as an uneasy example for what may be the most important piece of sweeping nationwide legislation achieved during Barack Obama’s administration: The Affordable Care Act. Like the Affordable Care Act; Massachusetts health reform law 58 was nicknamed after the chief executive who first proposed the legislation that would eventually become the law. It goes by “Romneycare”, and it is considered to be largely successful, popular on both sides of the aisle, and implemented swiftly and with few notable glitches. So how exactly has Romneycare affected Massachusetts? What bearing has it had on the industry as a whole? On small businesses? On private citizens?
The first and most important statistic to note is that polls place the number of Massachusetts citizens with health insurance of one form or another at stunningly high numbers, consistently above 95%. Yet edgier, more controversial issues like systemwide re-coding and mandatory funding for contraceptives were absent from the milder Massachusetts reform law. More so, there was focus put on establishing an individual mandate: a requirement for adults that, much like car owners experience, stipulates that they must have health insurance. Further emphasis was placed on expanding medicaid and other aid-based institutions and incentives for low-income members of the population.
Small businesses saw effects as well. New regulations mean that the health benefits that they offered (which come hand in hand with tax credits) had to meet certain standards. In order to be considered fair and reasonable, proof had to be given; most commonly via showing that certain percentages of the workforce had opted to use the company healthcare, demonstrating its desirability. Employers that did not meet these standards either by ability or by choice would be required to pay several hundred dollars per full-time employee; with the money going to the Commonwealth Care fund – a broad bureau helping to reform the system.
For his part, former Governor Romney has always defended the traditionally liberal and progressive parts of the law by stating that Massachusetts has its own set of unique problems and, as the state’s leader, he was addressing them. In this way, he has allowed himself to be rightly credited for the successes of Romneycare while slamming the President’s health care plan.
In Massachusetts, healthcare for the average person has seen significant change even though parts of the law are still waiting to take shape. Waiting times for treatment (a concern) do not seem to have lengthened. Quality of care remains high. And the fact that nearly every registered man and women have insurance of one kind or another is encouraging to say the least.