This report of recent activity in Massachusetts may be of special interest to my out-of-state readers. The insurance exchange set up by the Legislature when the MA health care access bill was passed has gotten very good grades. The folks there have had many things to balance, and they have done it thoughtfully. This report was posted on April 22 by Glen Shor, the current Executive Director. He succeeded Jon Kingsdale last April.
April showered us with reasons to be optimistic about the state of health care reform in Massachusetts.
Faced with projected 11% membership growth in the Commonwealth Care program next year as people lose unemployment benefits - and no additional resources to cover that growth - we encouraged our Medicaid managed care organizations to deliver high-quality, cost-effective coverage for less. They came through for the taxpayers with savings of $80 million, meaning that our members will not have to face the prospect of benefit reductions or unaffordable co-payments.
There was also good news for small business owners looking for an easy way to find affordable health insurance for their employees. Starting in July, we are eliminating all up-front fees for purchasing coverage through the Health Connector and will be launching a wellness program and premium discounts for qualifying small businesses. Within a few months, we will also be expanding the choice of health insurance carriers available to small businesses through our easy-to-use, online shopping experience - and even adding an additional carrier for individual purchasers. Our unsubsidized Commonwealth Choice program has doubled in membership over the past year-and-a-half, and these upgrades should make it an even more appealing tool for comparing options and choosing coverage that best suits one's needs.
And, of course, the fifth anniversary of Massachusetts health care reform was officially marked by Governor Patrick and others at the Dorchester House this month. While we are proud of the fact that 98.1 percent of our residents and 99.8 percent of our children have coverage, the event poignantly showcased that reform isn't just about numbers. It's about helping people. We're succeeding on both fronts.
On the national scene, the Massachusetts experience continues to be closely examined as other states begin to develop their health insurance Exchanges. Partnering with MassHealth and the University of Massachusetts Medical School, we were successful in obtaining a $35.6 million three-year federal grant that will not only help us share our technological knowledge and practices with other New England states but also improve our web-based shopping experience for Massachusetts consumers and small businesses.