Massachusetts Miracle

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Protecting health care jobs shouldn’t be part of cost-control debate, Harvard economists argue

Chelsea Conaboy, Boston Globe, June 6, 2012 Hospital officials frequently warn state and national lawmakers that aggressive cost controls will lead to health care job losses. But two Harvard economists argue in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine that health care jobs have no place in the policy debate. There’s a bigger employment picture to consider, Harvard School of Public Health professors Katherine Baicker and Amitabh Chandra write. ... Protecting

Without patient-centered health plans, Massachusetts is using the same tired script

Josh Archambault, Boston Globe, June 6, 2012 As the next act of the Massachusetts health care drama plays out on Beacon Hill, the same characters return to the stage with a tired script. The ostensible hero of the production, the patient, is left to watch the tragedy from the back row. Legislation being debated on Beacon Hill ignores patient-centered health plans and health savings accounts, or HSAs, which are lower-premium insurance plans that direct pre-tax dollars into a bank account to cover an individual’s current health care and save money for future medical expenses. ... Without

Massachusetts House Begins Debate On Sprawling Health Cost-Cutting Plan

Rachel Zimmerman, WBUR, June 5, 2012 Debate is now underway in the Massachusetts House on the health care cost-cutting bill, a sprawling proposal to save $150 billion over 15 years by re-focusing medical care on prevention, changing the incentives and methods for paying doctors and hospitals, linking health-care spending to the state economy, and more. Debate is expected to run through today and pick up again tomorrow. Introducing the bill this afternoon, Lynn Representative Steven Walsh, the House chair of the Committee on Health Care Financing, tried to reassure those fearful that the plan could undermine the medical industry’s ability to provide top-notch care. ... Massachusetts

Hospitals need to coordinate better to deliver the best care - and save money

Mike Coyne, Boston Globe, June 5, 2012 Leaders on Beacon Hill should know that one of the key factors driving up health care spending is poorly managed and uncoordinated care delivery. Too often, patients are getting treatment from multiple providers that don’t talk to each other and lack any incentive to work together to keep costs down. This raises the overall price tag, and doesn’t result in better care. ... Hospitals

Cambridge Health Alliance CEO aims to improve care delivery (sic)

Wardell says hospital system open to partnerships. Robert Weisman, Boston Globe, June 2, 2012 Cambridge - The new chief executive of Cambridge Health Alliance says he wants to improve the way medical care is delivered and paid for at the system’s three so-called safety net hospitals, but is also open to forging partnerships that may fall short of outright mergers. Patrick R. Wardell, 59, who arrived here in mid-March from Michigan State University’s Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan, said he plans to spend the first six months working with his board on a plan to strengthen the finances of Cambridge Health Alliance ... Cambridge

Four Massachusetts health insurers to rebate $46 million

Companies failed to hit benchmarks on expenditures. Chelsea Conaboy, Boston Globe, June 2, 2012 Four health insurers will return $46 million to Massachusetts customers in the coming weeks because the companies spent too much money collected as premiums on administrative costs and surpluses in 2011. Tufts Health Plan will return the most - about $25 million. About 5,000 members who have an individual Tufts plan will get an average rebate of $260. About 14,000 small businesses will receive an average rebate of $1,700. The rebates are the result of a 2010 state law requiring insurers to use at least 88 percent of their premiums ... Four

The perils of health care price controls

Steven Syre, Boston Globe, June 1, 2012 Can market-based solutions that are so familiar to the business world really work in health care? This is hardly a new question. But it’s talked about a lot in Massachusetts these days as the Legislature inches toward a new attempt to manage growing medical costs. Next week, the House is expected to debate a bill that would impose a price-control system on one of the state economy’s most important industries, including a kind of Robin Hood tax that would take from some wealthy health care providers and redistribute money to struggling hospitals. ... The

The birth of a health care giant - video

Boston Globe, May 30, 2012 The merger of two hospitals to form Partners HealthCare was supposed to save a lot of money. Instead, the company has helped drive up the cost of health insurance. ... The

State lawmakers must put our bloated health care system on a diet

Jon B. Hurst, Boston Globe, May 30, 2012 Despite the economic downturn over the past five years, health care costs in Massachusetts have continued to skyrocket. Over that period, members of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts - Main Street businesses like grocery stores, restaurants, and jewelers - have endured an average annual increase of 14 percent in health insurance costs for their employees. It is true that the 2012 increases were the lowest over those five years, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to declare victory on costs. We must continue to press for lower premiums, particularly for small businesses. ... State

Massachusetts promises to rein in health-care costs

Experts question whether it can deliver. Sarah Kliff, Washington Post, May 30, 2012 Boston - It’s taken as a matter of fact among Massachusetts health-care wonks: The state legislature will, by the summer’s end, pass a law aiming to reduce health-care costs by $150 billion in 15 years. Where experts are confident that legislation will pass, they also have serious concerns about whether that bill can actually work - and deliver on the big health-care cost reductions that it promises. ... Massachusetts

Health cost issue divides former allies in Massachusetts

For business groups, stakes are higher as focus is on revenues. Chelsea Conaboy, Boston Globe, May 29, 2012 The state’s largest business groups, which came together to play a key role in passage of the 2006 law that expanded health insurance coverage, are now divided over how aggressively to slow the growth of health costs. Associated Industries of Massachusetts, a business trade group, has called for tighter controls on spending than the House or Senate has proposed. Its regular allies - including the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a research organization for employers - warn against over-regulation. ... Health

Medical businesses await Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare

Steven Syre, Boston Globe, June 22, 2012 It doesn’t take a genius to predict the big story of next week. The Supreme Court is expected to finally to release a decision in the court case challenging President Obama’s health care law. Readers and viewers will be inundated in coverage. Consider yourself warned. The court ruling is a tricky thing to anticipate because there are more than two possible findings. The law could be upheld, struck down entirely, or rejected in part. Many business interests have a lot riding on the court decision ... Medical

Health policy versus jobs

Chelsea Conaboy, Boston Globe, June 11, 2012 Hospital officials frequently warn state and national lawmakers that aggressive cost controls will lead to health care job losses. But two Harvard University economists argue in a New England Journal of Medicine perspective piece published online last week that health care jobs have no place in the policy debate. There’s a bigger employment picture to consider, Harvard School of Public Health professors Katherine Baicker and Amitabh Chandra write. ... Health

Single-payer health care would save billions for Massachusetts

David U. Himmelstein, MD & Steffie Woolhandler, MD, Boston Globe, May 30, 2012 The House and Senate health care proposals would set imaginary limits for spending growth enforced by secret “improvement plans” and wrist slaps for hospitals that overcharge; establish tiered payment schemes to consign the poor and middle class to second-tier hospitals and doctors; push most residents of the Commonwealth into HMOs (oops, we forgot, now they’re called “accountable care organizations,” or ACOs); and wipe out small doctor’s offices by “bundling” their pay into ACO payments. ... Single-payer

National Nurses United: Linking Global Struggle With Successful Organizing in Difficult Places

Sandy Eaton, RN, CCDSLinks, May 25, 2012 National Nurses United, the two-year-old national union of registered nurses, called on its members and all their allies to Come Together to Heal the World in Chicago on May 18th. This marks the latest phase in the union’s campaign for a Financial Transaction Tax, the “Robin Hood Tax,” which began outside the US Chamber of Commerce on Lafayette Park last June and quickly spread to Wall Street and beyond. NNU’s annual Staff Nurse Assembly this year bypassed Capitol Hill, its usual venue, for Chicago, the original site of the G8-NATO summit. ... National

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