The Massachusetts Legislature last week acted on an alternative to a mandate for universal insurance coverage that was passed six years ago but never implemented.
The Democratic-controlled House passed and sent to the Senate a measure that delays the effective date of the 1988-era employer mandate until Jan. 1, 1996, and establishes a 15-member healthcare commission.
That committee will examine proposals and design plans to provide affordable, accessible coverage for all residents while constraining the growth of per-capita costs.
Besides state officials and legislators, the commission would include employers and consumer advocates, but not hospital-industry representatives. However, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Hospital Association, Andrew Dreyfus, said the commission would be open to discussing hospital issues.
The measure, if enacted, would mark the second delay in implementing a mandate pushed by former Democratic Gov. Michael Dukakis calling for all but the smallest employers to provide insurance to workers or pay into a state-sponsored pool.
His successor, Republican Gov. William Weld, has advocated repealing the mandate. But Democrats, by delaying implementation a year at a time, "use it as a way to maintain leverage for devising other programs for the uninsured," Mr. Dreyfus said.
Massachusetts was among several states that floated health reform plans earlier this year but put serious consideration on hold while awaiting the outcome of federal health-reform legislation.