Massachusetts Miracle

Health cost bill may not attack key problem

Market clout of top doctors, hospitals drives up premiums. Liz Kowalczyk, Boston Globe, July 15, 2012 As legislative leaders close in on a major health care cost-control bill, key efforts to attack one of the most-cited reasons for rising medical spending - the market power of caregivers who demand high prices for their services - appear to be in jeopardy. In a 2010 report, Attorney General Martha Coakley blamed the leverage of the best-paid providers as a main driver of health care costs. She found that insurers pay some hospitals and doctors twice as much money as others for similar care ... Health

Glen Shor is working to prove universal (sic) health care can succeed

The executive director of Massachusetts’s Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority has helped push costs lower for some customers. Michael Blanding, Boston Globe, July 15, 2012 Lots of politicians might like to claim credit for implementing universal health care in Massachusetts (including Mitt Romney, er, sometimes). But after the photo ops are done, it’s the state’s insurance exchange - the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority - that will determine whether it’s successful or not. No one knows that pressure more than Glen Shor, involved with the agency virtually since its beginning ... Glen

The health reform we still need

Kenneth E. Thorpe & Thomas P. Trimarco, Boston Globe, July 14, 2012 Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act, the law’s ultimate success or failure may be judged on whether we can afford it. A look at the Massachusetts experience with health care reform illustrates the point. The law, which was used as a template for federal reforms, shows us that expanding coverage can be achieved through a government mandate (98 percent of the state’s citizens are insured), but controlling costs is far more difficult. The typical regulatory solution is to reduce payments for services, cut benefits, or both. ... The

Massachusetts health coverage architects in demand in other states

Robert Weisman, Boston Globe, July 13, 2012 Hartford - Kevin Counihan, an architect of the online insurance exchange that was key to expanding health care coverage in Massachusetts, found himself playing a familiar role this week - briefing state officials on how to create a new health insurance marketplace. “We’re going to get it done,” Counihan promised the nodding bureaucrats. He ticked off plans to tap federal grants, hire administrators, and make people aware of coverage choices. But he wasn’t outlining his strategy on Beacon Hill. ... Massachusetts

Tufts Medical Center announces new cancer treatment institute

Jeremy C. Fox, Boston Globe, July 13, 2012 Tufts Medical Center announced this week that its Floating Hospital for Children will establish a new cancer treatment institute to develop individualized treatments for children whose cancers do not respond to traditional treatments. The Newman-Lakka Institute for Personalized Cancer Care will also be the first to build a centralized database to track treatment outcomes in these cases, allowing doctors to share information and offer treatment to thousands more children with rare and recurring tumors. ... Tufts

Blue Cross ACO Drives Up Costs, Boston Globe Coverage Tries to Spin Savings

Benjamin Day, Mass-Care, Blue Mass Group, July 12, 2012 The Globe today published a front-page article, “Blue Cross plan shows reduction in spending.” The piece is about Blue Cross’s new contract for Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), and it suffers from one major problem: both academic reports cited in the article actually show that the Blue Cross ACO plan increased health care spending compared to traditional fee-for-service enrollees. It is hard to imagine a more misleading presentation of the findings. The problems begin with the study authors – two of whom are Blue Cross employees – who do their best to spin the findings ... Blue

Blue Cross plan shows reduction in spending

Liz Kowalczyk, Boston Globe, July 11, 2012 The largest private-sector effort to tame medical spending in Massachusetts appears to be getting results, as doctors who agreed to work on a budget have cut costs by using less-expensive imaging and lab companies and expanding office hours to reduce emergency room use. Health spending for patients treated through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts’ pioneering global-payment program grew more slowly in 2010 than for patients whose physicians were paid the traditional way - receiving a separate fee for every office visit, test, and procedure. ... Blue

Report: Steward attempted to ‘unload’ Carney Hospital last year

Dorchester Reporter, July 10, 2012 Steward Health Care, a for-profit hospital chain that owns Dorchester’s Carney Hospital, attempted to transfer the Dorchester Avenue facility to Merrimack College, according to a magazine report this week. CommonWealth magazine, in a lengthy look at Steward Health Care, reported that Merrimack College President Chris Hopey brought the proposal to take over Carney, along with Labouré College, to his college trustees sometime last year. As the article noted, “But Steward’s overture to Merrimack raised a lot of questions. Why did Steward want to unload Carney, a hospital it acquired only a year before? ... " Report

CommonWealth Offers Fresh Details On Steward’s Health Care Power Play

Rachel Zimmerman, WBUR, July 10, 2012 If you’re the kind of person who gets a thrill out of the inner workings of competing hospital systems, there’s a must-read story for you just out in CommonWealth Magazine. The title pretty much sums things up: “Cerberus’s health care play: The owner of the for-profit Steward Health Care is taking on Boston’s big teaching hospitals.” And while much of the Steward saga is known among hospital establishment insiders, a few fresh details emerge here. The piece begins this way: Chris Hopey, the president of Merrimack College, brought an intriguing proposal late last year to his board of trustees ... CommonWealth

Cerberus's health care play

The owner of the for-profit Steward Health Care is taking on Boston's big teaching hospitals. Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth, July 10, 2012 Chris Hopey, the president of Merrimack College, brought an intriguing proposal late last year to his board of trustees: Steward Health Care, the upstart, for-profit hospital chain that is challenging some of the biggest players in the Massachusetts health care industry, wanted to transfer Carney Hospital in Dorchester to the North Andover school. Three sources familiar with the hush-hush discussions say Hopey told the board members that Steward was looking to unload Carney and Labouré College ... Cerberus

State funds boost local health sites

John Laidler, Boston Globe, July 8, 2012 Four area health care organizations will receive help in adopting innovative practices to improve patient care and reduce costs through recent state grant awards. The Lowell Community Health Center, Lynn Community Health Center, North Shore Community Health, and Steward Health Care’s Holy Family Hospital in Methuen will receive a combined $413,973 in funding announced June 26. The funding is part of $3 million awarded to 27 community health centers and hospitals statewide. ... State

Saint Elizabeth’s reaches out

Robert Weisman, Boston Globe, July 5, 2012 Saint Elizabeth’s Medical Center, the Boston area’s largest Catholic hospital, is reaching out to a population that’s been expanding around its Brighton neighborhood: Orthodox Jews. In a bid to attract more business from the Orthodox community in Brighton and nearby Brookline and Newton, the hospital last week dedicated the region’s first Bikur Cholim room, a space where observant Jews can visit family members who are patients during Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath running from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. The room provides Hebrew prayer books and stocks kosher foods.

Steward to close Taunton home care division

Chelsea Conaboy, Boston Globe, July 2, 2012 Charles Winokoor of the Taunton Daily Gazette reports that Steward Health Care is eliminating its home care division at Morton Hospital in Taunton, the only such division in the state’s second largest hospital system. Steward spokesman Chris Murphy did not say how many people would be laid off as a result. “As a hospital-based service, Morton Homecare does not have the ability to operate under a community-based model,” Murphy said in a statement to the paper.

Massachusetts officials weigh in on what 'Obamacare' ruling means for state

Gerry Tuoti, Taunton Daily Gazette, June 28, 2012 The Supreme Court’s ruling that President Barack Obama’s national healthcare legislation is not unconstitutional not only has sweeping implications nationally, but also reaffirms the status of the Massachusetts health care law in the eyes of many Bay State officials, analysts and health providers. “We are extremely encouraged by the growth and access to affordable care,” said David Morales, Steward Health Care System’s vice president for public policy and strategic planning. “We think more and more of that’s going to happen through this.” ... Massachusetts

Chafee to allow amended hospital bill to become law

Richard Asinof, Providence Business News, June 15, 2012
 Providence – Governor Lincoln D. Chafee announced Friday afternoon that he would allow the legislation changing the Hospital Conversions Act to become law without his signature. In his statement, Chafee said his primary concerns with the new law is the language relating to judicial review of regulatory agency decisions, and the lack of what he deemed a sufficient waiting period. “However, after meeting with interested parties on both sides of the issue, my concerns have been satisfactorily addressed, and I believe that the good in this important bill outweighs the bad,” Chafee said. ... Chafee

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