As the deadline for health insurance marketplace implementation edges closer, states are planning contingency measures to tackle last minute hassles and challenges. Although each state’s plan of action differs, there is common theme– states want to know the primary concerns of residents, and how to address them in a cohesive and comprehensive way. In fact, the state of Massachusetts has conducted a statewide poll capturing popular concerns of residents.

The poll, conducted by the Massachusetts Medical Society, randomly chose 417 adults from different areas of Massachusetts and conducted a telephone-based survey. The more prominent themes from the survey are listed below.

•    Most residents are worried about rising healthcare costs. Nearly 75 percent of the respondents felt that the expected rise in healthcare costs is the single most important issue facing healthcare in Massachusetts. In western and central Massachusetts, this number was a little lower at 67 percent. These regions saw the focus move a little toward access and quality of healthcare.

•    About 17 percent of residents felt that access to healthcare is another major concern. This number was nearly constant across all regions of the state. Respondents cited that there is a dearth of doctors, particularly doctors who are accepting new patients. The average wait time for a new appointment has risen from 48 days in 2012 to 58 days in 2013.

•    7 percent of overall respondents felt that quality of provided healthcare is not up to par. This number was on the higher side in western and central Massachusetts, where 16 percent of the respondents felt that the quality is a major concern. This response also caught the general perception of lack of quality primary care professionals in the region.

•    The poll also revealed that people were likely to consult their doctors for finding the best places for treatment. General physician opinion was important to the respondents and they demonstrated a high level of comfort in interacting with their own doctors.

Massachusetts’s Plan of Action

Under light of this recent poll and popular opinion, Massachusetts is devising a strategy to alleviate the primary concerns of its populace. Through the implementation of health exchange integration, the state plans to control rising costs by promoting competition among insurance carriers. The medical agencies are trying to recruit more doctors to reduce the average new appointment wait time around the state. They are also encouraging new doctors to accept more patients. The state is also shifting focus to physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Results over the past few years have shown that availability of assistants and practitioners helps ease the transition for patients and helps reduce emergency room visits, thereby increasing quality of care.

Over the next few months, Massachusetts hopes to tackle these popular concerns and considerably improve the chances for success of its health insurance marketplace.

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