Massachusetts Health Reform Wins Innovations in American Government Award

September 15, 2009
Massachusetts Health Reform Wins Innovations in American Government Award

Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Institute Honors Initiative to Expand Access to Health Insurance

Cambridge, Mass. – The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University today announced the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority as a 2009 Innovations in American Government Award winner. As the country explores ways to expand access and reduce costs to health care, Massachusetts’ innovation is a key focus of the national debate. This independent state authority increases the pool of citizens with health insurance in Massachusetts, a central mandate of the state’s health reform law of 2006. The program is one of six government initiatives honored at yesterday’s reception in Washington, D.C. which concluded with the premier of 2009 Visionaries, a PBS-produced documentary highlighting this year’s Innovations winners. The Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority will receive a grant towards the replication of its best practices nationwide.

Coverage Programs
Launched in 2006, the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority is a public private hybrid entity, which combines funding from both government and private insurance agencies to operate. Under the provisions of the 2006 health reform law, all Massachusetts adults must purchase health insurance if they can afford it. In order to meet this requirement, the Connector offers residents two coverage programs:

      • CommCare: This subsidized coverage plan is for low-income adults who previously could not afford non-group coverage and were not eligible for employer-sponsored insurance or Medicaid. In FY09, the Connector estimates that over 200,000 adults are eligible for this plan and currently 160,000 have enrolled.
      • CommChoice: CommChoice is a commercial insurance tool for individuals and small businesses designed to reduce the cost of plans through managed competition. Using the Connector’s website, users can comparison shop through a host of brand-name insurance plans to determine the most appropriate for their needs.

Since the Connector’s inception, the program and other elements of reform have lowered the state's uninsured rate to only 2.6 percent as of 2008. This is well under half of pre-reform levels in Massachusetts. On a comparable basis, the national average is likely 5 or 6 times higher. Other results include

      • Decline in free care use: According to a report by the Massachusetts Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, use of free care such as ERs and free clinics has decreased by 37 percent for the quarter ending December 2007 over the same quarter in 2006.
      • Public support: Since 2006, public support for the Connector’s programs and the health reform law has increased from 61 percent to 69 percent. These findings were reported in 2008 independent opinion survey sponsored by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation.
      • Replication: The program continues to train and share best practices with states around the country including Utah and California. At the national level, current health care plan debates include elements of the Massachusetts plan such as exchange (similar to CommChoice), the mandate that all individuals purchase insurance, and requirements that employers provide insurance or pay into a larger fund.

“Innovation is one of our primary values,” said Jon Kingsdale, executive director of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority. “Recognition of this from the world’s premier school for the advanced study of policy and politics is gratifying and comes at a critical juncture in the national health reform debate. At a time when all levels of government are triaging programs to balance budgets, the support from Governor Patrick and legislative leadership has played a major role in our success.”

For more information, please contact:
Kate Hoagland
Ash Center

Richard Powers
Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority

About the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation
The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation advances excellence in governance and strengthens democratic institutions worldwide. Through its research, education, international programs and government innovations awards, the Center fosters creative and effective government problem solving and serves as a catalyst for addressing many of the most pressing needs of the world’s citizens. For more information, visit