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On Costs, Rep. Walrath Keeps Us Guessing

On Costs, Rep. Walrath Keeps Us Guessing

April 2, 2008

From State House News Service: On Senate President Murray's Cost Control legislation, Rep. Walrath keeps us guessing:

The House leader of the committee examining Senate President Therese Murray’s health care cost control bill said the committee was working to affix a price tag to each section of the bill. “I’ve got staff working on it, but we’ve got to do section by section how much this bill is going to cost,” said Rep. Patricia Walrath, co-chair of the Committee on Health Care Financing. On announcing the bill, Murray noted that a provision to promote electronic medical records would cost about $25 million a year until 2015 to implement. Murray said she is hoping that spending some funds up front will help reduce an explosion of health care costs in the future. She has proposed using the proceeds of a proposed $1-per-pack cigarette tax to finance the expansion of e-records.

Her bill proposes to ban pharmaceutical companies from giving gifts to doctors, mandate public hearings when health insurers propose rate increase of greater than 7 percent and forgive loans for nurses and primary care physicians at the state’s medical school. Murray’s bill also includes a provision to require insurers to recognize nurse practitioners as primary care providers. Wednesday at the State House, advocates for nurse practitioners highlighted this portion of the bill as a potential cost saver by expanding consumer options. Practitioners are less expensive than physicians and data shows health outcomes are the same for their patients as those of traditional doctors, the advocates said. “It can’t be just the doctor on the pedestal anymore,” said Sen. Susan Fargo, co-chair of the Committee on Public Health, at a forum in the House Members’ Lounge.

After the forum, Walrath told the News Service it was too early to tell whether her committee would be making any significant changes to the text of Murray’s bill and that she couldn’t estimate how soon the committee would be ready to release it. “I can’t answer that at this point,” she said. “I’m not quite there to be able to give you an answer.”