jon kingsdale

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The ‘Political Theater’ of Massachusetts Health Reform

Former Connector chief Jon Kingsdale


Jon Kingsdale is best known as the man who got the Massachusetts “Connector,” the first health insurance exchange in the nation, off the ground. Who knew that he was also a blogger extraordinaire? Don’t miss his new post, “Hypercostitis: Political Theater in Massachusetts” on the blog of the journal Health Affairs.

Jon makes no pretense of being a member of the elite buns-of-stone corps who sat through all four days of last month’s state hearings on health cost trends, but he draws on Health Care For All’s coverage to reach some conclusions:

Covering all four days of hearings in excruciating detail, HCFA’s blog called it “Boot Camp” for policy wonks. I call it political theater. It was this same sort of political show, staged over years at the JFK Library, which contributed to the enactment of near-universal coverage in 2006.

And:

Most of the substantive testimony at last week’s hearings focused on the twin culprits of fee-for-service reimbursement and hospital/physician consolidation. Building on a tradition of political theater, Massachusetts is poised to confront the evil twins of medical excess. Whether we do so, or dance around that political challenge, will be revealed in the next (legislative) act.

Jon has some other great turns of phrase; I particularly liked his summing up of the problem that hospitals with more clout can command higher prices from insurers: “The big get richer, and the rich get bigger! No wonder that three of the four hospital CEOs at last week’s hearings—all but Partners CEO Gary Gottlieb—called for government intervention to reduce such pricing disparities. (Now that’s theater!)” Continue reading