A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

And We’re Off!: Joint Committee on Financial Services Holds Informational Hearing for 2011-2012 Session

And We’re Off!: Joint Committee on Financial Services Holds Informational Hearing for 2011-2012 Session

March 10, 2011

Following in their tradition, the Joint Committee on Financial Services (with jurisdiction over banking and insurance) held an informational hearing today for stakeholders. The tone of the hearing was jovial with many laughs – honest financial services can be funny- had by all in the familiar group. The hearing started off with a briefing from the Commissioner of Banks, followed by Joseph Murphy, Commissioner of Insurance.

Commissioner Murphy introduced the Committee to the Division and its breadth including the revenue they generate for the state as a regulator. On the policy side, his comments were dominated by discussion of the need to control health care costs. He quickly discussed the success of Chapter 58, the rate review process and the need to do more as is indicated in the Governor’s recently filed payment reform bill.

Dolores Mitchell, Director of the GIC, was up next and expressed her support for some of the innovative plan structures they are using in the GIC. She expressed support for limited networks and concern about adding mandated benefits because of the cost impact. She also raised the point that the drug coupon bill is a trap and a marketing tool. [insert link to HCFA blog] Director Mitchell closed by discussing the need for payment reform and how we need to coordinate our efforts with the Federal Government.

The next few speakers discussed property and casualty before bringing up several speakers focused on health insurance.

The health portion of the day included: MHA, MMS, MAHP, MDS and HCFA. Not unsurprisingly each of the trade groups highlighted their industry's value to the Financial Services Committee and how they relate to that Committee and each spent much of their time discussing payment reform and the need to control health care costs. Comments from MHA included an emphasis on flexibility in a redesigned health care system with the need for more administrative simplification. MMS echoed those comments and added in an appreciation for the Governor’s tone of voluntary transition. MAHP then spoke about their legislative priorities and their thoughts about the best next steps in payment reform. The Dental Society talked about the importance of their non-covered services and reminded the room that oral health is part of overall health. Batting clean-up to this section was Amy Whitcomb Slemmer from HCFA (read testimony (pdf)). Her comments emphasized the need to maintain a strong DOI and work with consumers to achieve success in payment reform. These comments also reminded the Committee that there can be unintended, harmful, consequences with policy decisions by raising up two consumers who had been harmed by the change in the definition of ‘eligible individual’ under Chapter 288.

The Committee listened to each speaker, taking detailed notes and were eager to start on the hard work of dealing with the bills this session! And we can’t wait!
-Georgia Maheras