Massachusetts Miracle

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In letter to Governor Patrick, hospital group calls Medicaid cuts ‘unsound public policy’

Chelsea Conaboy, Boston Globe, July 9, 2012 The Massachusetts Hospital Association sent a letter to Governor Patrick last week asking him to stop proposed administrative changes the group says would result in cuts of about $40 million to Medicaid payments for hospitals. The changes, effective October 1, “represent the continued practice of shifting of government costs onto providers,” President Lynn Nicholas wrote to Patrick in a letter dated July 3. “This cost shifting practice is unsound public policy and stands as a direct barrier to the reform effort in Massachusetts.” ... In

Obamacare: a windfall for Massachusetts

Josh Barro, Boston Globe, July 9, 2012 Recently, the Supreme Court upheld most of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. But one provision - the part expanding Medicaid, the health care plan for low-income families, to all adults and children below 133 percent of the poverty line - was weakened. States that decline to participate in this expansion won’t lose all the funds the federal government currently give them for Medicaid, as the law specified; they’ll only have to give up the money that would have paid for the expansion itself. Already, some conservative governors are claiming they plan to turn the money down. ... Obamacare

Thousands in Massachusetts still forgo health care insurance, pay penalty

Chelsea Conaboy, Boston Globe, July 6, 2012 Francisco Machado of Lowell had long gone without health insurance. Strong and healthy, he preferred to save the money or send it to family in Brazil, until pain and buzzing in his ear sent him to the emergency room. The $600 bill persuaded him to enroll in a plan offered by his employer, a cleaning company. Having coverage meant that the 45-year-old would no longer be hit with a state fine - he paid $406 in 2011 - for being uninsured. But this spring Machado moved to a part-time job and became uninsured again. ... Thousands

Curbing health care costs may cost state $40 million a year

Liz Kowalczyk, Boston Globe, July 7, 2012 The state will have to spend money to save money on health care costs, according to preliminary estimates from Governor Deval Patrick’s administration. The cost to the state of imple­menting cost-control legislation being finalized by House and Senate leaders could be $20 million to $40 million a year, the governor’s staff said yesterday. Most of that money would pay for an agency to oversee changes in how doctors and hospitals are paid, monitor whether the state is meeting spending targets, and potentially review performance improvement plans ... Curbing

GlaxoSmithKline to pay Massachusetts over $35m

Accord part of $3b US fraud settlement. Robert Weisman, Boston Globe, July 2, 2012 The pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline has agreed to pay more than $35 million to Massachusetts’ Medicaid program as part of a $3 billion settlement with federal and state authorities, the largest health care fraud payment in US history. The massive settlement, disclosed Monday by the Department of Justice, includes a guilty plea to three criminal charges by London-based GlaxoSmithKline, which has its US headquarters in Philadelphia. ... GlaxoSmithKline

House, Senate Stamp Approval on $32.5 Billion State Budget

Michael Norton & Matt Murphy, State House News Service, June 28, 2012

Boston - The $32.5 billion state budget bill agreed to Wednesday night by a conference committee attracted bipartisan support Thursday afternoon in the House and Senate, where it was approved on votes of 147-3 and 38-0, respectively.

Many of the budget's supporters applauded its increase in local aid to cities and towns.

The budget increases spending on the judiciary by 7.2 percent, to $760 million, with the Trial Court receiving a 7.9 percent spending bump. Spending on the state's environmental agencies rises $20 million under the budget, which also increases Chapter 70 school aid to $4.2 billion, a 5.3 percent increase.

Negotiators Agree on $32.5 Billion State Budget

Branches to vote on it Thursday.

Matt Murphy, State House News Service, June 27, 2012

Boston - The House and Senate on Thursday will vote on a $32.5 billion state budget for fiscal 2013 after negotiators struck a compromise that increases funding for local aid, keeps Taunton Hospital open, and makes some reforms to the state’s welfare and immigrant verification systems.

“Leading the way is local aid. We made a very, very strong commitment to local aid and I think as you look at the last several years and the challenges we faced, this is certainly moving us in a direction, putting us back on track to enhance our partnership with cities and towns,” House Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey said.

Groups Release Data Showing Massachusetts Individual Mandate Hit Middle-Class Income Hardest

Public Insurance a More Equitable Alternative. Massachusetts Campaign for Single Payer Health Care, June 22, 2012 Boston - The Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act, expected before the end of the month, hinges on the constitutionality of its most controversial provision: the individual mandate. Data released by Mass-Care and Massachusetts Physicians for a National Health Program shows that the mandate, which has been in effect for five years in Massachusetts, was highly inequitable in the immediate aftermath of reform – hitting primarily lower middle-class families’ budgets. ... Groups

The human side of the Taunton State Hospital equation

Taunton Daily Gazette Editorial, June 19, 2012 A joint conference committee of the Massachusetts House and Senate within the next week is expected to reconcile the differences between a House version of the state budget and a Senate version of the budget, including each chamber's plan to mitigate the proposed closure of Taunton State Hospital. Which chamber's version is closest to what you'd like to see? The stories of the families who regularly visit their loved ones at Taunton State Hospital reveal the gravity of the decision that now lies in the hands of a joint conference committee on Beacon Hill. ... The

Massachusetts poll shows concern over health costs

Chelsea Conaboy, Boston Globe, June 12, 2012 Fourteen percent of sick adults in Massachusetts were unable to get health care they needed in the past year, according to a poll conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and others. More than 7 in 10 of those who said they could not get treatment cited financial reasons, saying they could not afford the out-of-pocket costs or their insurer refused to cover the test or treatment. “In a state that prides itself on universal coverage, it’s a finding you wouldn’t expect to see,” said Robert J. Blendon ... Massachusetts

Taunton State Hospital closure opens debate over mental health care

Corey Kane, Taunton Daily Gazette, June 10, 2012 This March, after Governor Deval Patrick announced plans to close Taunton State Hospital, 200 union members, mental health advocates, patients and their families, converged on the State House’s Gardner Auditorium to urge a delay. In between chants of “stop and study” former patient Timothy Grabosky told the rally how the hospital helped transform his life, allowing him to move into his own apartment, and attend Bristol Community College. “I would not be standing here if it was not for Taunton State Hospital,” Grabosky said. “My story is one of many.” ... Taunton

Hospitals spending big money on new computer systems

Steven Syre, Boston Globe, June 8, 2012 Hospitals are always angling to get their hands on the latest, greatest piece of medical hardware, and are willing to spend big bucks for it. But the new must-have products don’t perform tests or assist in medical procedures. I’m talking about computer systems that run clinical and business operations at hospitals and health care networks. The health care world is changing fast, and information technology is the organizational backbone that hospitals are depending upon to help them adapt. The federal government is pushing for electronic health records and new reimbursement systems that emphasize flat fees ... Hospitals

South Shore Hospital to join Partners system

DC Denison, Boston Globe, June 7, 2012 South Shore Hospital in Weymouth has agreed to become a member of the Partners HealthCare medical system in a deal that falls short of an outright merger, according to a memoradum of understanding released Thursday by the hospital, Partners HealthCare, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Under the agreement, South Shore Hospital would become part of Partners, but keep its name and remain an independently licensed, not-for-profit health care provider. The hospital would maintain its own board of directors, medical staff, community connections, and fund-raising activities. ... South

Massachusetts House passes health care cost-control bill

Liz Kowalczyk & Chelsea Conaboy, Boston Globe, June 6, 2012 The Massachusetts House Tuesday night overwhelmingly approved its 278-page plan to curb the soaring cost of medical care. The final vote - 148 to 7 - sets up what could be difficult negotiations between the House and the Senate, which approved its own cost-control legislation last month. The House debated hundreds of amendments but did not make significant changes to its bill, although it did adopt a $20-million tax on hospitals and insurers that would fund prevention and public health programs. ... Massachusetts

Massachusetts hospitals receive top marks

Chelsea Conaboy, Boston Globe, June 6, 2012 Using the model of letter grades posted in New York to steer ­diners away from the dirtiest restaurants, a prominent health quality group is grading US hospitals on safety, giving ­Massachusetts medical centers the highest overall scores in the nation. The Leapfrog Group planned to post the assessments online Wednesday morning, at The grades are meant to measure how well hospitals prevent errors that kill tens of thousands of patients each year and are designed as a deliberately simple tool for patients choosing where to get care, said Leah Binder ... Massachusetts

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