Massachusetts Health Plan Seen as U.S. Model

Jonathan Gruber, a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told CNBC’s “Morning Call” that he believes the Bay State’s new universal health plan mandate can succeed on the national level.

“This approach tries to find the middle ground between right and left to get to universal coverage,” Gruber said Friday. “It’s saying there are three problems we have to address: affordability, giving people some place to go and mandate they get it. Otherwise, the healthy people won’t buy it and prices will be too high… I think that’s the kind of middle ground approach that can succeed.”

The new law takes effect July 1, and requires residents of Massachusetts to carry health insurance, even if coverage isn’t provided at work or they’re not eligible for a government-subsidized plan. The plan was a compromise between Democratic lawmakers and Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, now out of office and a presidential candidate.

Gruber said the new program provides coverage to the uninsured while “minimally disrupting” current insurance plans that most people currently have -- and generally want to keep.

Ed Haislmaier, senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said he believed the Massachusetts plan can succeed.

“The precondition is to move out of the system we have now, where we’re counting on employers to organize the thing,” Haislmaier said. “Instead, we’re going to make it easy for people to buy their own insurance and take it with them from job to job, but without losing all the benefits you have today of employer-provided insurance. That was the key precondition before you can say ‘Now, everybody should have it.’ You have to first make it more accessible and affordable.”