Yesterday, Senator Ted Kennedy made a surprise return to the Hill – surprise in that he was not expected to return till January. His top agenda item is healthcare reform.
And what might we expect from the Senator?
Many believe that Senator Kennedy will work with the Obama administration to craft legislation that is modeled after the Massachusetts universal healthcare program. The local National Public Radio station, WBUR had an interesting segment this morning, interviewing many key participants in the Massachusetts reform program. The segment looks closely at what Massachusetts has accomplished to date, how it got there, the challenges it faces and whether or not a similar plan would work nationally.
A key point expressed during this segment is the unrelenting rise in healthcare costs. For example, even though Massachusetts now has the lowest number of uninsured, at 3%, Massachusetts is experiencing the same across the board increases in healthcare costs, ~10% annually. Such costs increases were a key contributor to the doubling of funding for the program in 2008.
While successful in addressing the need to provide care for all citizens of the Commonwealth, the program is clearly unsustainable without significant cost reform (as well as consumer education) and thus any national program modeled on Massachusetts will need to address this critical issue upfront to have any chance of longterm impact.