It’s no secret that the Massachusetts health reform law is a great success for the people of Massachusetts:

  • • 98 percent of residents have health insurance
  • • There are virtually no uninsured children
  • • The number of people with a usual source of care has significantly increased

But what is generally not known outside of the state – and also runs counter to the conventional wisdom – is that Massachusetts businesses are big supporters of the law. On Monday, a group of Massachusetts business leaders, including Jack Connors, Chair Emeritus, Hill Holiday; Richard Lord, President and CEO, Associated Industries of Massachusetts; and Michael Widmer, President, Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation spoke to an audience at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business about the success of the law and why the Massachusetts business community embraced it. They were joined on the panel by Linda Blumberg, economist and senior fellow at the Urban Institute and Mary Ella Payne, Vice President System Legislative Leadership, Ascension Health.

The business leaders made it clear they are proud of the law and of their role in making it happen. From the business point of view, here’s the bottom line about Massachusetts health reform:

  • • It has not been a budget buster
  • • It is a catalyst for addressing rising health care costs
  • • More workers are getting coverage from their employers and more employers are providing coverage
  • • Health reform has helped, not hurt, the business climate in the state
In tandem with the forum, the business leaders released a report, Business Community Participation in Health Reform: The Massachusetts Experience, that documents stories of businesses helped by the law. In it Dan Wolf, the founder and CEO of Cape Air, a $105 million company with 1,000 employees, counters the dire predictions the law would result in escalating premiums.

“Before the reform law, Cape Air had premium increases of 15-20 percent, year after year, but with more of a public sector role in health care, we’ve seen downward pressure in premiums for the first time. This year our premium increase was about 5 percent,” Wolf said.

These leaders attribute much of this success to the Massachusetts business community’s involvement in the drafting and implementation of the law. Within a broad framework, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) leaves much of the design and implementation of national reform to the states. Businesses in other states should look carefully at what has been accomplished in Massachusetts, separating myth from reality, and take advantage of the opportunity to become involved in implementation of the ACA in their states.

When asked by event moderator McDonough School Dean David A. Thomas what has been the biggest surprise about the Massachusetts law, Jack Connors said for him it was how vilified the law has been around the country. All of the business leaders saw the Massachusetts law as an incremental step that enshrined “shared responsibility” into the health system – not a government takeover of the system.

“This is a classic case study in best practices – there is an opportunity to see this as a cow to be milked rather than an ox to be gored,” Connors said.

— Rob Restuccia, Executive Director