Massachusetts Plans Revamp to Corral Healthcare Costs

Tuesday, 18 Oct 2011 07:48 PM

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Massachusetts lawmakers are grappling with the state’s spiraling healthcare costs. After three years of study, the state’s legislative leaders are close to producing bills that would make Massachusetts the first state — again — to revamp radically the way doctors, hospitals, and other health providers are paid, The New York Times reports.


Gov. Deval Patrick and other legislative leaders, all Democrats, are working toward a plan that would encourage flat “global payments” to networks of providers, replacing the fee-for-service system that creates incentives for excessive care by paying for each visit and procedure.

“We have shown the nation how to extend care to everybody,” Patrick told the Times of the healthcare program that went into effect under former Gov. Mitt Romney. “And we’ll be the place to crack the code on costs.”


While Romney’s 2006 healthcare plan has largely succeeded in providing nearly universal coverage, it did little to slow the growth of healthcare costs that already were among the highest in the nation.


In February, Patrick submitted a bill that would impose a global payment system for most state employees, Medicaid recipients and others with state-subsidized health insurance — roughly 1 in 4 residents.

His plan would set parameters to help private insurers and providers follow suit, in the hope that they would gradually gravitate to global payments, without coercive legislation.


Hospitals hope to persuade lawmakers that price controls are not needed. Initial resistance is also expected from doctors. The most recent annual work force study by the Massachusetts Medical Society found that nearly 60 percent of physicians said they were not likely to join a voluntary global payment system.

But State Rep. Steven Walsh, a Democrat and House chairman of the Joint Committee on Healthcare Financing, said doctors and other stakeholders are becoming more comfortable with the idea. “It’s not seen as a foreign approach anymore,” he said.


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