Massachusetts' 5 year-old experiment with universal health care is yielding some interesting results that the rest of the country would be wise to learn from.
While Romneycare has mostly satisfied the headline goal of "getting more people insured", this is no cause for celebration as insurance does not equal actual access
. The condition of health care in this state is a disaster thanks to universal health care.
According to a recent report from the Massachusetts Medical Society
, more than half of the state's primary care practices are closed to new patients, there are longer wait times to get appointments, and many practices are choosing not accept the government's health insurance plans. Meanwhile, the physician practice environment index
, which measures factors impacting delivery of patient care, has continued to decline (down 5% since 2005) and is substantially below the national average, which has remained flat since 2005.
Ironically (but very predictably), the shortage of primary care providers combined with the increased number of people receiving free insurance has resulted in MORE people seeking care at hospital emergency rooms. Of those previously uninsured individuals who have signed up, 68% are receiving free or subsidized coverage. A recent Forbes article illustrates how ER visits have climbed 9% - 3 million visits - between 2004 and 2008, with costs for uncompensated care exceeding $400 million. (Source: RomneyCare's Unhappy Anniversary
Universal health care is bankrupting the state, decreasing quality of service, and makes things worse for those of us working in health care. Given that Romneycare was the template for Obama's "Affordable Care Act", we already know how this is going to turn out. We need to start learning from mistakes and stop repeating them, particularly when there is 5 years worth of experimental data upon which to draw conclusions.