“I like the market, but the more and more I stay in it, the more and more I think that maybe a single payer would be better,” said Terry Dougherty, director of MassHealth – the state-run Medicaid plan that insures nearly 1.3 million Massachusetts residents – when lawmakers asked for his “personal view” on a single payer system.
Dougherty’s comment, made during a budget hearing at the Boston Public Library, prompted his boss, Secretary of Health and Human Services JudyAnn Bigby, to interject: “That’s his personal opinion.”
Dougherty noted that MassHealth, by far the largest program in state government, spends just 1.5 percent of its $10-billion-a-year budget on administrative costs – compared to about 9.5 percent by the private market, according to studies by the state Division of Health Care Finance and Policy. That figure won plaudits from several lawmakers on the panel, including some who have supported implementing a statewide single payer system.
Hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents have endorsed the approach. In fact voters in 14 House districts, including five that backed Scott Brown for U.S. Senate, voted overwhelmingly last year to support a non-binding ballot question that asked, “Shall the state representative from this district be instructed to support legislation that would establish health care as a human right regardless of age, state of health or employment status, by creating a single payer health insurance system like Medicare that is comprehensive, cost effective, and publicly provided to all residents of Massachusetts?”
Perhaps he’s looking with envy at Vermont’s efforts to be the first state in the nation to provide a world-class health care financing mechanism. One can only hope.