Tuesday, October 16 , 2018, 2:16 pm | Fair 79º

 
 
 
 

Froma Harrop: The Real Miracle Happened Four Years Ago

That's when Massachusetts enacted its own health-care reform, which could serve as a national for universal coverage

The miracle in Massachusetts was made possible through a bigger miracle four years ago. That’s when the commonwealth became the first and so far only state to guarantee near-universal coverage.

Froma Harrop
Froma Harrop

Scott Brown, the Republican winner of the Senate seat long held by Ted Kennedy, voted for the legislation as a state senator. In vowing to be the key 41st vote against the Democrats’ health-care reforms, Brown carefully added that Massachusetts voters should not worry about their own health-care security: They already have it through the state program.

Thus, Massachusetts was the worst state in which to test the wider public’s feelings about national health-care reform. Polls showed people in Massachusetts — as elsewhere — unhappy with the legislation in Washington. But those numbers include many who thought the reforms were too weak or were simply disgusted by the legislative sausage-making. And whether these proposals were better than nothing is a meaningless question to people who already have something.

The foes of health-care reform have long used a divide-and-conquer strategy in crafting an anti-reform coalition. They pit those who have government-guaranteed health care, such as the elderly, against those who don’t. Rest assured that if there were no Medicare, the older folks with tea bags stapled to their hats would be on the other side of the barricades. Medicare is the most socialized element of the U.S. health-care system.

Similarly, the damp enthusiasm in Massachusetts for the reforms coming out of Washington belies the popularity of the state reforms enacted in 2006. “It’s not perfect,” a Brown supporter told a reporter, “but why should we have to pay again when we have health care?”

Not perfect is an understatement. Unlike the legislation in Congress, the Massachusetts plan made virtually no effort to contain spiraling health-care costs. That makes the Massachusetts health-care plan, which Brown still supports, far less conservative than the national version he opposes.

Despite the program’s unexpected costs — despite its individual mandate to obtain coverage or face a fine — the Massachusetts program retains solid backing at home. Once people realize that whatever happens to their job, whatever dire disease befalls a family member, they can get medical care without having to sell their house, they won’t let anyone take it away.

So there’s no talk of repealing the Massachusetts program, but of bringing it back to the lab for repair. The state has already cut benefits and raised taxes. A special commission is now urging a move away from expensive fee-for-service health care and to a model that would pay groups of doctors and hospitals fixed sums to cover the patient for a year.

Politically, the Massachusetts program could serve as a national model. Pass universal coverage now, fix it later.

Even though their reforms are superior, Democrats in Washington could have done better still by not trying to please everyone (including Republicans who were just playing with them). But despite their control of the White House and majorities in Congress, Democrats seemed capable only of reacting to critics, of cringing with fear under even the most ludicrous attacks.

If you don’t have the courage of your convictions, it doesn’t matter whether your party has 59 or 60 or 65 seats in the Senate. Under President George W. Bush, Republicans got whatever they wanted with 50 senators.

The Democrats remind me of King Lear. Having given away his land, the source of kingly power, Lear turns to his fool for amusement and threatens to whip him. “I am better than thou art now,” responds the cheeky fool, who like all Shakespeare fools has everything figured out. “I am a fool; thou art nothing.”

Froma Harrop is an independent voice on politics, economics and culture, and blogs on RealClearPolitics.com. She is also a member of the editorial board at The Providence (R.I.) Journal. Click here to contact her at Creators.com.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >