Massachusetts’ Underwhelming Health “Reform”

Massachusetts’ health care leaders continue to believe that they can solve problems by just ordering them to go away. The first step in this was the April 2006 Commonwealth Connector reform signed by Governor Romney, which simply commanded people to buy health insurance, and fined them if they did not.

Subsequently, we’ve seen that this resulted in cost overruns, but no real improvement in access to health care. The latest evidence confirming that Massachusetts has seen no positive change is the continuing problem of hospitals’ diverting ambulances to other hospitals when their ERs are overloaded.

So, the Massachusetts regulator has simply ordered hospitals to stop diverting, according to the Boston Globe. Yesterday’s order confirms a directive first published in July, forbidding any hospital from diverting ambulances unless the ER is on fire, or similar catastrophe.

If only health reform were so easy, that it could be achieved by the stroke of a pen! Massachusetts’ ambulance diversion statistics show that the Connector (which was supposed to ensure that everyone has health insurance, and access to primary care so they don’t have to go to the ER) has had little effect.

The state publishes the number of hours each month that hospitals divert ambulances. In 2005, the last year before the reform was enacted, ambulances were diverted for 860 hours. In 2006, it was 1290 hours. In 2008, it looks like it will be 2367 hours, an increase of two thirds over 1826 hours in 2007.

It looks like all those newly insured patients are not really relieving the pressure on ERs. Repeat after me: the government cannot fix health care; it should only get out of the way.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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