Massachusetts has one of the lowest uninsured rates in the nation. Nevertheless, the percentage of residents without health insurance increased from 2.8 percent in 2018 to 3 percent over the past year. Massachusetts is doing well compared to states such as Texas, which has the nation’s highest uninsured rate (18.4 percent), but still tens of thousands of people lack access to affordable health care.
Costs also remain high.
In 2018, Massachusetts spent $60.9 billion on health care or roughly $8,827 per person, an increase of 3 percent from 2017.
Private health insurance continues to pass along higher costs in the form of premium increases and more out of pocket spending. As a result, some argue that Massachusetts should consider creating a publicly funded single-payer health insurance plan to eliminate private health insurance.
Other states in the region, including New York and Vermont, considered a single-payer system. New York has debated a single-payer system for more than two decades.
Although a single-payer plan would eliminate deductibles, co-pays, and other out of payment pockets, it would ban the sale of existing private insurance plans.
The cost of a single-payer plan is high – recent estimates project that New York would have to spend around $200 billion annually – more than the state’s fiscal year 2020 budget.
As the president of the Healthcare Association of New York, Bea Grause, noted, “Having a single-payer – the New York Act specifically – would be irresponsible” based on the state’s budget and current deficits.
Massachusetts also considered a single-payer system in recent years.
Rep. Jennifer Benson, the chair of the Legislature’s Committee on Healthcare Financing, supported a single-payer system, along with several other Democratic party members, but acknowledged that it would be difficult to implement at the state level.
Massachusetts should learn from the experiences of New York and Vermont, where the cost of implementing a single-payer system stalled reform efforts.
A single-payer system would be a financial burden on the budget in Massachusetts.
Nearly 320,000 residents currently purchase affordable coverage from the Massachusetts Health Connector. Massachusetts should focus on expanding and improving the Affordable Care Act instead of exploring a single-payer system.
According to the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, “We’ve learned in Massachusetts that there is no single solution that will cure the many challenges of our complex healthcare system. Instead, we should focus on building upon all that is currently working.”
A publicly funded health care plan that eliminates private insurance companies and decreases high out of pocket payments is not the answer for Massachusetts.
Emma Foley is a resident of Milton and currently a senior at Providence College who is majoring in health policy and management. She graduated from Notre Dame Academy in Hingham.