The Legislature’s recent decision to cut the fiscal 2010 budget for Commonwealth Care as part of the state’s enormous fiscal crisis has led to renewed claims that health reform is unaffordable. In particular, the issue of Commonwealth Care funding for legal immigrants, while important in its own right, has led many observers and critics to conclude mistakenly that health reform is unraveling.
These critics ignore the fact that the fundamental problem is not the costs of Commonwealth Care, but rather the unprecedented collapse of state tax revenues. With the state facing a structural budget gap of $5 billion in fiscal 2010, virtually every state program has hit the cutting board. And as is always the case during economic downturns, caseload-driven programs like Commonwealth Care experience a temporary increase in enrollment.
Widmer concludes that health reform is worth it:
To be sure, Massachusetts, like the nation, must address the escalating costs of healthcare – for government, employers, and individuals alike – and Massachusetts has launched a variety of efforts to deal with this intractable problem. But this persistent problem has little to do with the health reform law.
These are extraordinarily difficult times for all of state government, and it is not helpful to advance unfounded allegations about the unaffordability of health reform. We need to stay the course on one of the most important state initiatives of recent times, which has become a beacon for the rest of the nation.
We agree, and appreciate the valuable contribution the Mass Taxpayers Foundation is adding to the health reform discussion. – Brian Rosman