A Healthy Blog

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

Health Care Cost Control

All Eyes on the House: Will The Fox Be Guarding the Hen House?

As everyone waits for the House to take action on the cost control bill, a WBUR story yesterday brought good news and bad news. The good news is that the House will likely take action on the bill shortly; the bad news is that the pharma gift ban may be absent from the bill that comes out of the House. Will the House cave to industry pressure and leave out this critical provision put forth by the Senate President? We sure hope not. Read more »

FY09 Budget - First Read Edition

The conference report state budget was released Wednesday evening and the legislature will vote on the compromise plan Thursday (read the whole 258 pages here (pdf)). (As always, for the best overall evaluation of the budget, stalk the Mass Budget and Policy Center website for their instant analysis.) A closer read will turn up more things of interest, and some of the financing sections are tough to decipher without more careful study. We see no cuts in health programs' eligibility or benefits. We'll have more to come on issues relating to oral health, children's mental health, and other... Read more »

Quality and Cost Council Retreat: Cost Containment Emerges as Major Focus

The Health Care Quality and Cost Council held its first day-long retreat at Worcester State College on Monday. The morning discussions focused on links between (and de-linking) quality and cost. The discussion included a reference to a fascinating NY Times article this past Sunday about the increasing use of CT scans to determine potential heart disease risk. This article gave a clear example of an expensive new technology being used with possibly little benefit to patients (and actually some degree of harm from the small increase in cancer risk as a result of the scan). The article touches... Read more »

2 Quality & Cost Council Committee Meetings Wednesday

The Health Care Quality and Cost Council will hold 2 committee meetings Wednesday, July 2, at One Ashburton Place, 21st floor.  The End of Life Committee will meet from 11-12:30 and the Communications and Transparency Committee will meet from 3-5.  Agendas are below. Also, check back here later today for an update on the HCQC Council's retreat. End of Life Care Committee and Chronic Care Management and Prevention Committee I.   Approval of Minutes from May 7, 2008 meeting II.  Items for Discussion A.     Discussion of End of Life event to focus on Dartmouth Atlas findings B.    ... Read more »

Quality and Cost Council to Advance at Retreat

The Health Care Quality and Cost Council will be holding a day-long retreat on Monday, June 30 at Worcester State College's Student Center – Blue Lounge, 486 Chandler Street in Worcester (directions and campus map link -look for building 10). The sessions will go from 9 am to 3 pm. The agenda includes discussions of a theoretical framework linking cost reduction and quality improvements, evaluation of the Council's success so far and opportunities and challenges for future efforts, a discussion of website and communications opportunities with outside experts, and establishing priorities and... Read more »

Prominent Doctors, Med Student Groups Support Gift Ban

The pharmaceutical gift ban is garnering more support from health care providers across the state. Four prominent Massachusetts physicians wrote to Governor Patrick, Speaker DiMasi and Senate President Murray in support of legislation that would prohibit pharmaceutical companies from giving gifts to health care providers, as did the National Physician’s Alliance and the Boston University and Tufts University chapters of the American Medical Student Association, which together represent 970 practicing and future Massachusetts physicians. (you can read the letters here) Read more »

Paul and Charlie Talk Transparency

Great back-and-forth dialogue in the comments section of our blog last week on the delay in the Quality and Cost Council's website. At issue is the planned public posting of hospital cost data. The discussion is between Paul Levy, President of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Charlie Baker, CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. These are the two Boston health care CEOs with their own blogs (Paul's here, and Charlie's here); we're happy to provide a neutral forum for their exchange. Read more »

Survey: Public Opposes Drug Company Gifts

The proposed ban on gifts to doctors from pharmaceutical companies in the Senate health care cost and quality bill (S. 2660) has been grabbing headlines and op-ed space since it was first introduced in March, and now a new survey (download pdf) has found that the majority of Americans disapprove of many of the gifts that pharmaceutical companies give to doctors. The survey, conducted earlier this month, polled more than 1000 people across the country about pharmaceutical company relations with doctors. Here are some results that pertain to the pharmaceutical section of the Massachusetts bill... Read more »

Quality and Cost Council Meets: Website Delayed Until Mid-Summer

The Cost and Quality Council's website launch has now been delayed until late July or early August due to problems with cost data. The Council members will be testing the site ahead of the launch. Kudos to Jim Conway, Council member, who requested that members of the Council’s Advisory Committee, 30+ individuals representing a broad range of interests, including consumers, also be able to look over the site to determine its accessibility and user-friendliness. Read more »

Never Pay for Never Events

Would you pay more for car that's defective than you would for one that's works well? Of course not, but that's pretty much how the health care payment system works. But change is afoot. EOHHS Secretary Bigby announced today that the state, as both an insurer and a purchaser of health care, will no longer provide payment to hospitals for costs associated with Serious Reportable Events (often referred to as Never Events). In addition, patients cannot be billed for the Never Events. Click here for the state's press release, issued in the framework of its Healthy Mass initiative, and the list of... Read more »


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