A Healthy Blog

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

Health Reform 2.0 Moves Out Of Beta

Health Reform 2.0 Moves Out Of Beta

April 15, 2008

The Senate Ways and Means Committee released its version of the Senate President’s cost control bill today. The bill, S. 2650, An Act to Promote Cost Containment, Transparency and Efficiency in the Delivery of Quality Health Care (click here for text), positions the Commonwealth to take major steps forward in both reducing costs and improving health quality. HCFA commends the Senate President, Senate Health Care Financing Chair Moore, and the Senate Ways and Means Committee for showing leadership in advancing a strong bill. The bill will be debated on Thursday.

Senate President Murray introduced the bill in early March (here’s our initial take on the bill, and here’s our report on the hearing). The revised version includes a number of key provisions that we supported initially (including several provisions from our consumer cost control agenda). The bill calls for statewide use of electronic medical records, expands primary care, prohibits health providers from billing for “serious reportable events,” requires insurers and providers to justify their costs at public hearings, and establishes hospital patient and family councils, among many provisions.

We’re particularly pleased that the Senate resisted heavy pressure from the pharmaceutical industry and their biotech allies (details here) and kept strong provisions banning drug industry gifts to doctors and establishing an “academic detailing” program to provide unbiased information to prescribers. We urge the Senate to resist weakening amendments, which would interfere with the goal of reducing costs by breaking the pharmaceutical industry’s inflated influence on prescribing. For more information, check out the Mass Prescription Reform Coalition.

We’re also pleased at the many improvements throughout the bill. The Senate Ways and Means version gives consumers a stronger ability to access and control their medical records, and improves a number of the health quality sections. We are sure additional provisions will be added when the bill goes before the House.

We congratulate the Senate leadership (and their top-notch staff) for their work and look forward to Thursday’s debate. Health reform II is on the move.