Mass. House Unveils Health Care Payment Bill

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After 800 meetings over 14 months, House leaders outlined the plan they’ve come up with to reduce health care cost increases in Massachusetts.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo says with health care spending now representing about 40 percent of the state budget, lawmakers need to take action.

"Even as we lead the nation in health care coverage, so do we in health care spending," DeLeo said Friday. "Premiums for the average family are about $15,000 annually and each year health care costs comprise a greater percentage of our state budget."

The House point person on the bill, Rep. Steven Walsh (D-Lynn) — the one who attended all 800 meetings — says one of the major parts of the bill involves a specific cost cutting goal measured by the gross state product, or GSP.

"Our goal is gross state product minus .5 percent," Rep. Walsh said. "Three years from now, we want this industry to be growing by 3.1 percent. Over the last five years we’ve been growing at 6.7 to 8 percent — GSP plus 2 — one of the most inefficient industries we have in the commonwealth. This bill, over the next 15 years, will squeeze out the inefficiencies and save us $160 billion."

The centerpiece of the complex measure requires a new health care payment system that moves away from the current fee-for-service method and toward a system that would emphasize preventative care and cost limits.

House leaders also want to address the sharp disparity in what different hospitals charge for similar care. The House plan would require high-cost providers to justify their costs or face fines.

DeLeo says lawmakers tried to strike the balance between cutting costs while not harming the health care industry.

"We also remain cognizant of the health care industry’s role as an employer," DeLeo said. "As one out of every seven jobs in the commonwealth are related to this industry. This bill reflects to keep it a healthy part of our economy."

Last year Gov. Deval Patrick outlined his own proposal to reduce health care costs but was not available for comment on the House plan.

House leaders say they’re confident the governor will support their proposal even though it does not include a provision to regulate premium rates.

The Senate will release its version of the bill next week.

This program aired on May 4, 2012.

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Deborah Becker Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.



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