A Healthy Blog

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

Health Care Cost Control

Great Scott! Brown's Misdiagnosis

Senate candidate (and current state senator) Scott Brown stuck his foot in the mandated benefits issue yesterday with legislation and a statement that shows his serious misunderstanding of the cause of high insurance premiums and how to cut health care costs. Brown filed legislation concerning health insurance mandated benefits - the state laws that require insurers to cover specified benefits. Read more »

Smart Jon Gruber Interview on Coverage Expansion Before Cost Control

Connector Board member and MIT economist Jon Gruber was interviewed today by Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein. In addition to the mention of Health Care For All, the interview shines lots of lights on how expanding coverage is the first step to getting serious about cost control: Klein: One of the peculiarities of the [national health reform] bill is that it actually "does" coverage. If the bill succeeds, then pretty much every American will have insurance. But it really only starts cost control. Coverage is more of an event. Cost control seems more like a process. Read more »

Connector unveils new Choice site

The Commonwealth Connector unveils a new website for CommChoice this month (Check it out here by selecting a plan that starts on January 1st). The new website has the feel of an online shopping experience for a major department store. The revamped website is in response to requests by Board members, (and us), asking that viewers be given more information about the plans that are available. The new site still allows you to review all of your options, but it is laid out in a completely different way than before. Read more »

Martha Bebinger, Rep. Lewis Describe MA Payment Reform

Martha Bebinger, on leave from WBUR to participate in the Nieman fellowship at Harvard University, has written a solid, hopeful summary of the Massachusetts payment reform process for the journal Health Affairs. Bebinger's article, Mission Not Yet Accomplished? Massachusetts Contemplates Major Moves On Cost Containment, is an editor's choice selection and is thus currently available for free on the Health Affairs site. And Rep. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) has published an op-ed lauding payment changes as the next phase for Massachusetts reform. Rep. Lewis clearly lays out the advantages of... Read more »

4th Annual Connector Board Retreat

This past Saturday, October 17th, the Connector Board held its fourth annual retreat, with the following agenda: Introduction & State Finances State Financial Outlook CommCare FY10 Update Integration of CommCare & CommChoice Long Range Planning National Health Reform Payment Reform (Global Payments) New ANF Secretary Jay Gonzalez ably chaired the retreat, thoughtful and soft-spoken, with all other Board members present, except for interim-Medicaid Director Terry Dougherty. Despite the significant and indefinite stresses of the state budget and national health reform, the morning was... Read more »

Payment Reform Hearing Report

At its hearing last Thursday, the legislature’s Committee on Health Care Financing began its public look at payment reform, soliciting public input on the proposal to move to global payments (background here, and HCFA’s take here). The muggy, packed hearing brought out all the players (aka “stakeholders”) in the Massachusetts health policy arena, and their carefully couched positions revealed widely varying points of view. As the State House News Service headline put it, “Tangled Web Of Interests Dot Long Road To Health Payment Reform.” Everyone agreed that figuring out how to do payment... Read more »

Consumers Speak Out For Payment Reform

"You will hear a lot of people say that we need to go slow on payment reform. They will herald the dangers of change. Health Care For All believes that we need to move forward with reforms that improve quality and reduce cost growth. "The truth is that our choice today is not between reforming our health payment system and the status quo. The status quo is unsustainable, and our current system is spiraling out of control. We must begin the process of reform now." Today begins the legislative phase of the payment reform effort in Massachusetts. With a big boost from the Boston Globe (... Read more »

HCQCC Embarks on a new Road(map)

The HCQCC met today to discuss the long-awaited Roadmap to Cost Containment (Roadmap). Prior to this part of the meeting, they had a few sub-committee updates. The anticipated sub-committee restructuring has been completed and there are now fewer committees with a sharper focus for each (check out our earlier post here). Jack Evjy, MD from the MMS presented a brief report on the Advisory Committee’s discussion about the Roadmap and promised a more detailed report at the next QCC meeting. The Council also voted to amend their Data Intake Collection regulations. The changes allow for an... Read more »

Can All-Payer Payment Reform Work? The Maryland Example

As Massachusetts and the Congress look for feasible policies to slow down the increase in health care costs, one state continues to set an example of steady cost control in hospital care for years. A recent Wall Street Journal article discusses Maryland’s independent price-setting policy for hospital care. Massachusetts was one of about 10 states that regulated hospital prices during the 1970s and 80s. We abandoned our increasingly ineffective rate control system in 1991 along with most other states (details here). Maryland remains the sole exception. Read more »

Cost Containment - the New Roadmap

Yesterday, the Health Care Quality and Cost Council's Cost Containment Committee met to discuss their recommendations for the "Roadmap to Cost Containment." Yesterday's meeting also included a quick overview of one of the QCC's more heavily discussed topics: rate-setting. The DHCFP modeled the projected cost savings of a two-year rate freeze for provider rates or a two-year freeze of health care premiums for the commercial insurance market. The savings were in the $2 billion dollar range for each rate freeze. Unfortunately, the modeling did not include the effect, and pros and cons, of... Read more »


Subscribe to Health Care Cost Control