State Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, an independent candidate for governor, today offered a wide-ranging and scathing criticism of the state’s universal health care law, saying it is bankrupting Massachusetts and will do the same nationally, if a similar plan is passed in Congress.
Echoing criticism leveled by congressional Republicans in recent weeks, Cahill said, “It is time for the president, the Democratic leadership, to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new plan that does not threaten to bankrupt this country.”
Cahill, who bolted the Democratic Party in July, has been a long-time critic of the state’s health insurance law. He said he was calling today's press conference to respond to Governor Deval Patrick’s accusation last week that he and other gubernatorial candidates have been “missing in action” in tackling health care concerns.
Cahill said it is the governor who has not done enough to lower costs imposed by the state's health insurance law, which Cahill said “has nearly bankrupted the state.”
Cahill said the law is being sustained only with the help of federal aid, which he suggested that the Obama administration is funneling to Massachusetts to help the president make the case for a similar plan in Congress.
“The real problem is the sucking sound of money that has been going in to pay for this health care reform,” Cahill said. “And I would argue that we’re being propped up so that the federal government and the Obama administration can drive it through” Congress.
Commonwealth Connector, the independent state agency established to help residents find the health insurance, has “totally failed,” to create competition and connect people with affordable insurance, Cahill said, pointing out that 68 percent of the residents it serves receive subsidized care.
“We haven’t done anything about driving down costs,” Cahill said. “We haven’t helped small business. We haven’t changed the way we pay for health care and the way we deliver it.”
Many policymakers and candidates, including Patrick, have acknowledged that the law has succeeded in covering about 97 percent of residents but has not lowered costs.
Patrick recently proposed empowering state regulators to reject premium increases that are "unreasonable or excessive." After Patrick testified in favor of the bill last week, he targeted Cahill and his Republican gubernatorial rival, Charles D. Baker Jr., the former chief executive of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, saying they had failed to offer their own substantive proposals to control health care costs.
Patrick said today that the treasurer is “wrong again.”
“Independent analysis has shown that health reform in the Commonwealth has added about 1 percent to the state budget,” he said.
Asked for solutions today, Cahill said he would seek to “level the playing field” between hospitals that charge different rates for similar procedures, seek to increase competition by allowing health insurance companies plans to sell plans across state lines, and would slash benefits mandated under state law.
Even as Cahill spoke, demonstrators from Organizing for America, Obama's political wing, were gathered outside the State House, demanding Congress pass the health care bill.
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