A Healthy Blog

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

Health Care Market

The Seven Percent Solution – or Is It Five? A Brief Guide to the New MA Cost Control Conversation

Let’s size up the unfolding MA conversation on health care cost control so far: In January, Sen. Mark Montigny and Rep. Jim Marzilli filed comprehensive cost control legislation (S.1238; H2197.) – promoted by HCFA – which, among 17 proposals, would require the Division of Insurance (DoI) to hold public hearings whenever premiums increase by seven percent or more in the newly merged small/individual health insurance market. We propose allowing DoI to disallow unjustified increases. In October, Sen. Pres. Therese Murray, in a speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, announces the... Read more »

The MA eHealth Initiative: Watershed or Waste?

The Massachusetts Health Policy Forum and the Massachusetts Health Data Consortium joined forces today in offering a forum entitled, "Health Information Technology in Massachusetts: A Private/Public Partnership? What Should the State's Role be in Facilitating Health IT Adoption?" Click here for the excellent Issue Brief. Read more »

Health Info Technology -- Where Does MA Stand?

Massachusetts is one of the indisputed leaders among states in advancing health information technology and electronic health records. (OK -- it's a little bit like being the tallest munchkin in Oz.) The Mass. Health Policy Forum and the Mass. Health Data Consortium are co-sponsoring a forum on Wednesday looking at the state's track record to date and where this is all headed. They have prepared an issue brief to accompany the forum, and it's an extensive and thorough overview, not a quick read at all, but the most authoritative look at this topic for general dissemination to date: Health... Read more »

How to Control Health Care Costs?: Part II

As mentioned Saturday’s blog, Tufts and Harvard Pilgrim CEO’s Jim Roosevelt and Charlie Baker are talking about how to control costs. In addition to three proposals outlined in the op-ed, the MA Association of Health Plans issued a press release and held a press conference today outlining 17 recommendations for legislation to reduce cost and improve quality. They include the following items: Read more »

"Dr. Drug Rep" Has a Blog

Dr. Daniel Carlat, the Newburyport and Tufts School of Medicine psychiatrist who wrote the first rate piece, Dr. Drug Rep, in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine, has his own blog: The Carlat Psychiatry Blog -- Supporting the search for honesty in medical education. Click here. Maybe there's a movement starting here. Maybe big pharma is starting to shake in its boots, just a bit? Who knows? We'll include it on our site as a new link, just to keep things in motion. Read more »

How to Control Healthcare Costs?

Tufts Health Plan and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care CEOs Jim Roosevelt and Charlie Baker write an op-ed in today's Globe (click here) titled "How to Control Healthcare Costs." Our modest suggestion for an improvement -- add a question mark at the end of the headline because Roosevelt and Baker propose process ideas, not substantive solutions. We welcome their key three ideas: 1. Public hearings on cost drivers. 2. Public reporting of healthcare revenues and expenses. 3. A public forum to find solutions. Senate President Therese Murray has proposed mandatory hearings before the Division of... Read more »

Consequences of Lifetime Caps and Quality of Care Issues

Today’s Wall Street Journal chronicles the story of a California man’s struggle with a staph infection, which was riddled with quality of care issues and resulted in astronomical amounts of medical debt. Worth a look. Mr. Dawson’s infection went undiagnosed for months, despite visits to his primary care physician, a dermatologist, and treatment from multiple doctors at a hospital for problems resulting from the undiagnosed infection. Finally, when he went to a spine center, doctors diagnosed the infection which had spread throughout his body. Treatment for the infection was begun, yet... Read more »

Exchange over Rising Premiums at WBUR Blog

Today I blogged at WBUR's CommonHealth website on rising health insurance premiums in Massachusetts -- click here. Jon Hurst, head of the Retailers Association and Charlie Baker, CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, weigh in, last time we checked. Worth a read, if I do say so myself..John McDonough Read more »

Confessions of a Drug Rep (II): Data Mining in Action

Another clip from the compelling New York Times Magazine article from yesterday, Dr. Drug Rep by Dr. Daniel Carlat -- click here. This involves the practice of "data mining" by pharmaceutical companies to learn the precise prescribing practices of individual physicians to target marketing efforts as precisely as possible. Here's how it really works: Read more »

Confessions of a Drug Rep

Not to be missed from today's Sunday reading is the article, "Dr. Drug Rep," in today's NYT Mag -- click here. It's a first person account by Dr. Daniel Carlat, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Tufts School of Medicine, of his year of on-the-side service to Wyeth Pharmaceuticals promoting their depression drug, Effexor XR, to local docs in the Newburyport area. He gave up the side-practice after the ethical conflicts became too much for him. He made an extra $30K over his $140K regular income. Some tidbits: At the end of the last lecture, we were all handed envelopes as we... Read more »


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