A Healthy Blog

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

Senate Unanimously Approves Cost Control Legislation

Senate Unanimously Approves Cost Control Legislation

April 18, 2008

The hallway leading to the Senate chamber was packed with lobbyists yesterday afternoon as the Senate debated and unanimously approved legislation to control the growth of health care costs. (see this blog report for background, and here for a list of all amendments adopted and rejected, including rewritten amendments).

Before getting to 54 amendments, Minority Leader Richard Tisei, Health Financing Chair Richard Moore, and Ways and Means Chair Steven Panagiotakos discussed health reform's rising costs and the need to address overall rising costs. Tisei set the stakes: “We’ve been successful for the first part of the health care reform act in terms of signing people up. The real crux of whether or not this will work is whether or not we can control costs.”

The Senate dug into amendments, debating medical malpractice, reuse of medical supplies and standardized billing. By 5-34, they voted down an amendment to weaken the “minimum creditable coverage” standard for insurance to meet the individual mandate. The amendment would have permitted insurance with no drug coverage. A redrafted amendment by Sen. Chandler, supported by the AIDS Action Committee, was adopted to strengthen consumer privacy protections in electronic health records.

After spirited debate, senators rejected amendments to weaken the ban on pharmaceutical industry gifts to providers, and adopted a redrafted amendment by Sen. Montigny to strengthen the proposal. The amendment adds a provision to require licensing of drug industry reps. Sen. Moore thanked Montigny for his hard work on the gift ban.

The bill now goes to the House which will examine the bill following their budget debate at the end of the month.

We urge them to think big. To address health care costs requires bold, dramatic action. Brandeis' Heller School Dean Stuart Altman rated the impact of various options (see slide 41 of this presentation.)

The greatest impact in altering the cost trajectory requires payment system reform. Only big steps will help control this big problem.
Brian Rosman & Lisa Kaplan Howe