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Patrick Unveils Plan To Curb Health Care Costs

BOSTON — Nearly five years after Massachusetts passed a near-universal health coverage law, Gov. Deval Patrick is filing a bill he says will make sure citizens can afford that coverage.

Speaking to to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Thursday, Patrick unveiled legislation that attempts to work with the health care industry to lower costs. The governor says he will work with a broad coalition of health care providers, business groups and consumer advocates on major payment changes.

Patrick’s legislation aims to reduce health care spending by putting most doctors and hospitals on a budget, with bonuses tied to patient health.

“There is no financial incentive in the current system for good care, only for more care,” Patrick said.

A new state council would set rules for so-called “global payments,” and the administration is requesting more authority to limit insurance rate increases. The bill the governor filed includes less government oversight than some in the industry had expected.

Patrick said Massachusetts led the way in providing health insurance for all and is “poised to lead again on health care cost containment.”

About 98 percent of state residents are now insured.

“We led the nation to the most successful model ever, if anyone is going to crack the code on cost containment, it will be we here in the commonwealth of Massachusetts,” he said.

Health industry leaders support some of the goals of Patrick’s bill, but argue they can reduce health care costs without more government regulation.

The state’s insurers have recommended a cautious approach, saying that before pushing a global payment system, the state needs to even out how much hospitals and doctors can charge.

In the same health care market, costs for similar tests and procedures can vary wildly, insurers said, and the state needs to create a more level playing field.

Health care advocacy groups, however, have urged lawmakers to act quickly, saying the recession has led to a jump in the number of people struggling to pay health care premiums.

With reporting from WBUR’s Martha Bebinger. Material from the Associated Press was used.

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