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Will Health Insurance Make The Difference In Another Election?

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When people talk about the impact health insurance reform has or will have on elections, they are normally talking about campaigns for national office. Examples are the election of Republican Scott Brown in uber-blue Massachusetts to the Senate, or political pundits predicting that Republicans will regain their majority in Congress due to public anger about the bill. Many believe that the fate of President Obama in 2012 rests on the issue.

However, the issue of health care is also having an impact on state-wide elections. One of the most significant also takes place in Massachusetts. With some exceptions, the state has been governed by Democrats. It enacted its own healthcare reform program several years ago, with mixed results. Indeed, it has reduced the percentage of uninsured residents; it has also been criticized for cost overruns.

Democratic Governor Deval Patrick recently shot an arrow across the bow of health insurance companies. His insurance commission recently denied the state's six major health insurance plan providers from increasing premiums to what he considers unconscionable levels. The requested increases would have applied to small businesses and individuals buying coverage, and ranged from eight to 32 percent.

As a result of those actions, Patrick has also proposed the idea of imposing a cap on coverage rates. Such a strategy has an appeal for those affected, but is not favored by Republicans that believe the free market would bring the best results.

In the current political environment, a Republican stands a good chance of being elected this year. Even so, GOP candidate Charles D. Baker appears to be a strange choice. He is actually the former head of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, one of the state's top health insurers, and one that requested significant increases.

It may be expected that Baker would oppose limiting rate increases, due to both his past employment and his party affiliation. He believes that such limitations would put several health insurance companies out of business. According to Baker, better cost controls and more transparency would do more to help provide affordable health insurance than a "political gimmick".



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