Lessons, if any, from California & Massachusetts…

Back in the 1980s, Jesse Jackson hosted Saturday Night Live, and in one sketch hosted a *hilarious* game show called “The Question is Moot,” where the answer to every question was, well…

I was reminded of this vignette when reading a back-and-forth at The New Republic’s The Treatment, between Jonathan Cohn, Diane Archer, and Jonathan Gruber, talking about the Massachusetts health reform.

My response at The Treatment today is in that same vein: the debate over Massachusetts is moot for the national conversation because Massachusetts started from such a different place.

We learned that the hard way here in California. We’ve published several papers on the Massachusetts reform, and were struck by the differences. Partially due to the good work the advocates and policymakers had done previously, Massachusetts has to close a gap; California has to jump a chasm.

The comparisons we have made between California and Massachusetts are reinforced by new papers out this week published by Health Affairs, funded by the California HealthCare Foundation, that reveal lessons from the California experience. Many of the papers point out the wide gulf between California, with one of the worst rates of uninsurace, of employer-based health coverage, and of investment in the safety-net, as contrasted with Massachusetts, which ranked highly in those categories even before reform. The papers are worth the read.

California policymakers had no choice but to propose something bolder and more ambitious than Massachusetts, given the depth of the problems–as will the nation as a whole. Of course, that makes it harder to pass.

Unfortunately, the rest of the country is closer to where California is than where Massachusetts is. I joke to national audiences that California is their ghost of Christmas future–where the nation will be in five or ten years if we don’t pass health reform.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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