I was born and raised in the southwestern Massachusetts city of Springfield.
It was a great place to grow up. Rich in Victorian architecture, the city boasts a 745-acre park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (best known for designing New York’s Central Park). George Washington chose Springfield as the site for the National Armory. It is the home of Smith & Wesson, Milton Bradley and Merriam-Webster.
Sports fans know Springfield as the place where Dr. James Naismith invented basketball and the home of the American Hockey League. Insurance professionals — especially those of a certain vintage who practiced in the individual disability market — will remember Monarch Life. Today, the city is the home of Massachusetts Mutual, founded in 1851 and a Forbes 500 company.
Yet it may be Springfield’s sons and daughters who best exemplify the diversity and forward thinking that is a Massachusetts hallmark. The list is long, but some of the most recognizable names include General Creighton Abrams; Johnny Appleseed; Nick Buoniconti; Milton Bradley; Larry O’Brien; James MacNeil Whistler; Robert Parker and a couple of other — and perhaps more instructive — notables.
Sons of Springfield also include Theodor Geisel (a.k.a., Dr. Seuss); Dr. “Tune in, Turn On, Drop Out” Timothy Leary, researcher and partaker of all things hallucinogenic; as well as historian William Manchester. Maybe those three men tell you a lot about Springfield and about Massachusetts. Sometimes, the state seems mired in its own history. Other times, it is so far out on the cutting edge that the air gets a little … rare.
Such is the case with the state’s recent history regarding health care and employee benefits. In 2006, Massachusetts enacted Chapter 58 of the Acts of 2006, also known by its longer title, “An Act Providing Access to Affordable, Quality, Accountable Health Care.” It’s now more common eponymous moniker is “RomneyCare.” The act mandates health insurance for all of the Bay State’s citizens and provides subsidies for lower income individuals. Employers must take a pay-or-play role.
The Massachusetts plan is replete with a “connector” — essentially a marketplace (some say it is a kind of broker) to facilitate the purchase of private insurance. The act has been amended several times, as costs have (inevitably) increased, most recently in August 2012 when price controls were established. In the June 2012 edition of this magazine, we reported on the long and tortured — and ultimately ineffective — history of price controls in this country. Enacting price controls is like putting a Band-Aid on a wound that really needs sutures.
Some considered RomneyCare to be the blueprint for PPACA. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was excoriated for this initiative during his sojourn through the valley of the shadow of death — also known as the Republican primary contest. Yet both Romney’s and the president’s plans are the law of their respective lands. Unsurprisingly — completely unsurprisingly for practitioners and students of insurance — the federal plan is now beginning to traverse the same slippery financial slope, albeit on a much larger scale.