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Mass. Panel To Tackle Health Care Costs

Health care spending in Massachusetts is expected to double (Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation)

Health care spending in Massachusetts is expected to double (Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation)

Behind the looming government shut-down in Washington is the continuing resistance to the Affordable Care Act by a core group of conservative House Republicans. Whether or not you agree with their stubborn refusal to accept a law that was approved by their Congressional colleagues, the big question remains: will Obama-care work? Can it provide access to affordable health care and bring the cost down?

As a bit of a health care policy laboratory, Massachusetts can probably provide some answers to that. The federal law is modeled on this state’s health care law, which was passed in 2006. And here’s what we know so far: just about everyone in the state has health insurance, but costs have continued to rise. And in fact, we’re spending more per capita on health care than any other state in the nation.

This week, a newly formed state commission is digging into why health care costs are so high and what can be done to bring them down. Under a health care cost containment law passed last year, medical expenses are not supposed to grow more than the state’s economy, pegged at 3.6 percent this year.

Guests

Stuart Altman, economist and professor of National Health Policy at Brandeis University, chair of the board of the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission.

Rev. Burns Stanfield, president of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization and pastor of the Fourth Presbyterian Church.

More

Health Affairs The 2012 legislation is a notable step beyond other recent cost control efforts. Although it lacks strong mechanisms to enforce the new spending goals, it creates a framework for increased regulation if spending trends fail to moderate.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation The underlying difference in spending between Massachusetts and the U.S. overall is rooted in the state’s demographics, insurance coverage, and health care market structure, which includes disproportionately many specialists and teaching hospitals and some very large and powerful hospital systems.

Massachusetts Center for Health Information and Analysis The first Annual Report on the Massachusetts Health Care Market focuses on health care payer and provider cost trends, provider price variation, and the prevalence of alternative payments methods in the Massachusetts health system, among other topics.


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