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November 16, 2010

Massachusetts Leads Health Reform Pack

When it comes to health care reform in the United States, Massachusetts can be considered a trendsetter. In 2006 the state became the first in the nation to pass comprehensive health care reform that required everyone to buy health insurance. Fast forward four years, and now, with the passage of a federal health care bill, many are looking to the Bay State to see if it worked.

Prior to the state’s health care bill, Lynn Nicols, a self-employed resident of a small town in Western Massachusetts was unable to the pay $500-monthly premiums for health insurance.

“We basically went without seeing a doctor for eight years,” says Nichols. She has now seen that premium drop to $160 a month through the state’s “Connector,” which allows residents to sign up for state approved health care plans that are run by private insurance companies.

The new federal health care bill, which Democrats pushed through Congress in March, has a number of similarities to the Massachusetts bill. Under the federal law each state would be required to set-up similar “Connector” programs that have driven premiums down nearly 40 percent in Massachusetts. And if residents of the state don’t buy into one of the private insurance plans they face a penalty. This will also be a parameter within the new federal health care bill, set to go into effect in 2014.

Overall, residents in Massachusetts support health care reform. Presumably because most residents now have health insurance. Yet Republicans who won a majority in the House of Representatives are opposed to health care reform and would like to see the recently passed federal law repealed.

This report is health care correspondent Betty Ann Bowser’s first in an ongoing series about health care reform


“Basically we played Russian roulette, hoping that we weren’t going to get sick. That was the best we could do.” –Lynn Nichols, a resident of Western Massachusetts who went years without health insurance because it was too costly.

“I think the facts are very clear. We have lowered the number of uninsured by 60 percent, from about 10 percent of the population to about 4 percent of the population. We have done so on budget.” –Jon Gruber, economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Warm Up Questions

1. What region of the country is Massachusetts located in?

2. What is health care?

3. What is insurance?

4. How do you get health insurance?

Discussion Questions

1. Do you believe it’s the government’s job to provide health insurance to individuals? Why or why not?

2. According to the video, how have some Massachusetts residents benefited from the state’s health care bill?

3. How is changing the health care system in the whole country different than changing it in a state?

4. Massachusetts health care reform was passed with a Republican governor. Why do you think Republicans are against a similar health care reform plan for the whole country?

Additional Resources

Read video transcript

Study: Health Care Spending Will Continue Rising, but Modestly

Health Care Reform is Tricky Balancing Act for Obama

The International Response to Health Care Reform

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