Report: Pricey Providers Take In 80% Of All Money Spent On Hospitals

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Martha Bebinger reports:


For hospitals, Brigham and Women’s tops the list, then Mass General, UMass Memorial Medical Center, Children’s Hospital, and so on.

I called Partners, the network that includes Brigham and Women’s and Mass General. Rich Copp, the vice president for communications, says Partners has taken several steps to lower costs since the numbers for this report were collected in 2009 and 2010.

“For example,” Copp said, “Partners has voluntarily ripped up contracts with Blue Cross, Harvard Pilgrim and Tufts, providing consumers with $345 million in savings. We’re also participating in new payment models with each of those three insurers. And we were selected as just a handful of organizations by the federal government as a Pioneer Accountable Care [Organization], which will deliver high quality care that is affordable.”

But if all hospitals are accepting lower rates of increase, how will the gap between high and lower priced hospitals change over time? Copp says the move to global payments will produce savings for Partners.

“Those types of efforts hold hope that costs can be contained in the long term,” Copp said.

But we don’t know yet if these steps that high priced hospitals are taking to lower costs will make a difference. CHIA plans to update this report every year. This first report is intended as a baseline for commissioners just appointed to oversee cost control efforts in Massachusetts.

Stuart Altman, who chairs the Health Policy Commission, an oversight group, says he wants more details about specialists and the type of care hospitals provide.

“I think the commission, working with the center [CHIA] needs to go the next few steps, and they’re important steps, before we’re in a position to make any kind of recommendation about what we should or shouldn’t do with respect to the data,” Altman said.

Some health care experts say it will be difficult to curb health care costs if consumers keep choosing brand name hospitals over the community alternatives for routine care. But consumers have little access right now to cost and quality information that would help them make smart choices.

This program aired on November 20, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.