Health Inc.

Massachusetts Docs Like Universal Coverage

How would doctors across the country actually like an overhaul that brought health coverage to the uninsured? Pretty well, if it rolls out anything like the one in Massachusetts.

Pie chart showing Massachusetts doctors support health overhaul.

Three years after the state enacted a law mandating health coverage for just about everyone, less than 3 percent of people there are uninsured.

So far, so good, doctors say. Seventy percent of more than 2,100 Massachusetts physicians polled recently gave the reform law a thumbs-up. Just 13 percent opposed it; 16 percent didn't know or wouldn't answer the question.

Yes, we know the numbers add up to 99 percent, but that's because of rounding, the pollsters at Harvard School of Public Health say. The results just went up on the Web site of the New England Journal of Medicine.

A plurality of the doctors (46 percent) said the law could use some tweaks, with 34 percent saying coverage should be expanded and 23 percent saying costs should be addressed.

Of course, nothing much in health care comes easily or cheaply. As some Massachusetts health officials noted separately on the New England Journal of Medicine Web site, "there is little doubt that the high cost of care in Massachusetts is causing major strains." The average premiums paid by a family for insurance climbed more than 12 percent between 2006 and 2008. Premiums this fall rose by about 10 percent.

Indeed, the impact of the law on overall health-care costs in Massachusetts was the single part of the coverage expansion that a majority of doctors (53 percent) said was hurting.

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