A Healthy Blog

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

Health Care Market

A Mega-Conversation that Won't Quit

Sometimes, well often, we're surprised by what happens on this blog. Example: way back on October 24, we did a post -- MEGA (Life) Worries -- about Attorney General Tom Reilly's investigation into alleged illegal practices by MEGA Life. Not much response right away. But over the past 14 + months, it's become a blog-space of choice for critics and defenders of this controversial company. 38 responses to date -- hosanna's and hate mail. Check it out. Read more »

Free Drug Samples Go Largely to Non-Poor and Insured

Kudos to the research team at Cambridge Health Alliance that investigated the question: which patients benefit from the pharmaceutical industry's distribution of free drug samples -- click here for more details. Help for lower income and uninsured patients is the most often advanced reason why this practice should be permitted. Results show a different reality: The study found that use of free prescription drug samples is widespread. More than one out of every ten Americans received one or more free drug samples in 2003. Among Americans who take at least one prescription drug, nearly one... Read more »

Insurers Respond to Turnbull -- Nolo Contendere

So in the interests of full discussion and fairness, we post below Dr. MaryLou Buyse's (President of the MA Assn. of Health Plans -- MAHP) full response to Nancy Turnbull's 12/31/07 Commonhealth Blog Post which reported that administrative costs at the major health insurers have increased over the past few years at a surprisingly high rate, even faster than the rate of increase for medical costs -- which insurers always target as the culprit for rising premiums. We weighed in that Nancy's post was important and demanded a response from insurers. Our friends at Blue Mass Group followed suit. Read more »

Must-Read Turnbull -- Insurer Transparency in Practice

Don't miss Nancy Turnbull's column today on WBUR's Commonhealth Blog. Most people know Nancy as a faculty member at the Harvard School of Public Health and as the former head of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation. Some of us with longer memories also know she served for years as the MA Deputy Commissioner of Insurance for all matters related to health insurance, where she did stellar service. Today, she uses those DoI skills and looks under the hood at the filings of the major health insurance carriers. And what does she find? Read more »

Quality & Cost Subcommittee Gets Its Hands Dirty

Earlier this month, the Quality and Cost Council established an ad hoc committee to discuss steps to achieve a key Council goal: “Reduce the cost of health care. Reduce the annual rise in health care costs to no more than the unadjusted growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2012.” The ad hoc committee met today to draw up a list of recommendations to present to the full Council on 1/1/08. Today’s discussion focused on a list of options to reduce health care costs. AG Martha Coakley's rep, Quentin Palfrey, had the session's money quote (from SH News): Read more »

A Double Dose of Prescription Drug News

Good news, bad news. In the holiday spirit, let's start with the good: Front page Boston Globe coverage today of the decision by UMass Memorial Center, one of the state's largest health systems: Read more »

Quality/Cost Council Subcommittee to Investigate Cost Control

From State House News Advances: HEALTH CARE QUALITY AND COST COUNCIL SUBCOMMITTEE: A Health Care Quality and Cost Council subcommittee meets Friday to discuss some pretty weighty issues. The council has formed an ad hoc committee to make a recommendation by Jan. 2 on ways to develop legislative and regulatory methods to control health care costs, adopt a standard of measurement of total annual health care spending in Massachusetts, contract with independent experts to: provide assistance in analyzing causes of health care cost increases or decreases, analyze the impact of cost savings... Read more »

Education Budgets Getting Eaten by Rising Insurance Premiums

Check out Ed Moskovitz' column in today's Boston Herald on health costs hidden inside local education budgets: A recent analysis by the Department of Education (DoE) shows that spending on health care for school employees rose a stunning 12.3 percent per year from 2002 through 2006. At that rate, spending on health insurance doubles every six years. It thus outstrips the increase in other costs (3.4 percent per year over the same period) and the national price index used to adjust the state’s foundation education budget (2.9 percent). ... So $850 million that schools were supposed to be... Read more »

BBJ Posts Partners' 2007 Financials

In the rapidly evolving health care cost discussion, lots of folks ask: "How small is Partners?" This week's Boston Business Journal provides this year's answer: Higher labor costs put a dent in Partners HealthCare's 2007 operating income, but the state's largest hospital group still made money for the fiscal year. Partners, which includes Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women's hospitals, reported $106 million in income from operations, off of $6.5 billion in operating revenue, compared to $133 million in operating income off of $5.9 billion in operating revenue in 2006. Partners'... Read more »

National Insurers Propose Market Reforms

If there is a well-deserved bullseye on one group in the lead-up to a new national health reform round in 2009, it's the national insurance industry. Their practices of medical underwriting and pre-existing condition exclusions, along with the countless ways they make it hard for consumers to get payment for services when they need it, have made them the agreed-upon number one target of all Democratic presidential candidates' reform plans. And deservedly so. New York Times reports that their national trade association, America's Health Insurance Plans, is now promoting its own agenda for... Read more »

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