Massachusetts Miracle

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Health Alliance CEO to employees: Don’t talk to the press

David Harris, Cambridge Chronicle, March 19, 2008

An internal e-mail sent by Cambridge Health Alliance CEO Dennis Keefe to employees after the Globe reported on the health network’s financial problems. Here’s our story and here’s the memo:

From: Helpdesk
Sent: Monday, March 17, 2008 5:30 AM
To: CHA
Subject: Message from Dennis D. Keefe, CEO
Importance: High
Dear CHA Staff:

Safety net hospitals strained by reform

Official: Cuts in payments put them in 'critical condition'. Jeffrey Krasner, Boston Globe, March 18, 2008 The state's hospitals that care for lower-income urban residents said they have been hard hit by the ongoing transition that is a central component of the state's healthcare reform law. Officials at many so-called safety net hospitals said that as the new system - which requires all residents to buy health insurance - phases out payments for free care provided to the uninsured, hospitals are facing budget shortfalls and have been forced to cut back on investing in new equipment. ... Safety

Taxpayers shoulder fee increase

Starting July 1, Massachusetts residents will have to pay more for co-pays and enrollment. Hillary Chabot, Berkshire Eagle, March 21, 2008 Boston - Many of the state's poorest residents will see their health care premiums and co-payments increase after a vote yesterday by a board charged with implementing universal health care. The costs mean a $4 to $11 hike in enrollee contributions for individuals earning between $15,612 a year and $31,212, and will mean an $8 increase in the co-payment when a patient sees a specialist. ... Taxpayers

MA Approves 12.1% Increase To Subsidized Health Care Plans

dbTechno, March 21, 2008 Boston - A Massachusetts state board responsible for looking over the individual health care mandate in Massachusetts has approved a cost increase for subsidized health care plans. The cost increase will be a price hike of 12.1% and will be spread across all four health insurers in the state. The insurers asked the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority to approve an increase of 15.4% initially. It has been estimated by state officials that the cost of these plans could now possibly rise to $1 billion. It ia also expected that there will be a major increase in enrollment in the near future as well, up to and over 225,000 people. ... MA

State health plan underfunded

Finance secretary seeks proposals on closing gap. Alice Dembner, Boston Globe, March 21, 2008 The state's new subsidized health insurance program will cost "significantly" more than the $869 million Governor Deval Patrick proposed in his 2009 budget just two months ago, the state's top financial official said yesterday, after insurers were granted an increase of about 10 percent. To close the gap, the Patrick administration has asked insurers, hospitals, healthcare advocates, and business leaders to propose ways to cut costs and raise revenue. ... State

Commonwealth Care under pressure

CommonHealth, March 21, 2008

The rising cost of subsidized health coverage for the uninsured in Massachusetts is putting new pressure on supporters of the state’s mandatory health insurance law. Yesterday the Connector Board cast several critical unanimous votes that re-assess “affordable” coverage. Advocates for low to moderate income subscribers agreed to significant increases in co-pays and premiums ... with the expectation that hospitals, insurance companies and employers will also soon contribute more to keep the state’s attempt at universal coverage solvent. ... Commonwealth

Closing Carney Hospital furthers health care crisis on all levels

Daniel J. Driscoll, Chief Executive Officer, Harbor Health Services, Inc., Dorchester, Patriot Ledger, March 21, 2008 Dorchester - We are in substantial disagreement with the report issued by Attorney General Martha Coakley concerning the future of Caritas Carney Hospital. We believe that Carney needs to remain an acute care hospital with an emergency room. First, closing a lower-cost hospital such as Carney is a bad idea, given that our new health care reform plan is experiencing higher than expected costs. On some common illnesses, Carney’s charges are one-half of the teaching hospitals. ... Closing

Board hikes co-pays in subsidized health care plan

Associated Press, March 20, 2008

Boston - Some of Massachusetts’ poorest residents will have to pay more in insurance premiums and co-payments under increases approved today by the board that oversees the state’s landmark health care law.

The increases in Commonwealth Care, the state’s subsidized health insurance plan, will require about half of the more than 176,000 people enrolled in the plan to dig a little deeper for health insurance - although the board retreated from a recommendation to increase the co-payments even higher.

Cost increase for Massachusetts subsidized health care plans approved

Catherine Williams, State House News Service, March 20, 2008

Boston - Facing skyrocketing costs and larger than projected enrollment, a board charged with overseeing the state’s individual health care mandate approved on Thursday a 12.1 percent cost increase to the state’s subsidized health care plans.

State officials estimate the cost of those plans could rise to $1 billion and project the enrollment in the state’s subsidized health care plans to bloom to 225,000 by next year. Critics say the decision relies too heavily on taxpayer dollars and low-income enrollee contributions instead of chip-ins from employers, health care providers and insurance companies.

Green-Rainbow to Governor: Steal this health care plan

Nat Fortune & Jill Stein, The Bridge, March 20, 2008 Given the recent brouhaha over Senator Barack Obama's unattributed use of a speech by Governor Patrick, we were surprised to hear the Green-Rainbow party's criticism of the Massachusetts Health Insurance Plan being lifted by the Governor himself! In our June 4th, 2006 op-ed in the Recorder, we wrote that the Massachusetts mandate to buy private health insurance was "like declaring an end to homelessness by requiring everyone to rent an apartment without heat and hot water." Two years later, Governor Patrick has come to the same conclusion ... Green-Rainbow

Universal health care in Massachusetts to save costs over time

Claudia Paredes, Boston University Daily Free Press, March 20, 2008 Universal health care and insuring more Massachusetts residents would ultimately drive health care costs down over time, a top Massachusetts health care official said at Harvard University yesterday. Jon Kingsdale, executive director of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority, said Massachusetts spends twice as much on health care than education, and in recent years health care costs have increased annually and cost containment is the No. 1 challenge. ... Universal

State punishes the uninsured

Elisa Poplaski, Pittsfield, Berkshire Eagle, March 18, 2008 I am a Berkshire County resident, who is disgusted and angry with the mandated health insurance law. The thought of forced health insurance is outrageous for Americans to swallow. However, considering the commonwealth of Massachusetts already misuses taxpayers' money by footing the bill for illegals' (sic) health care, it doesn't come as a total shock it also devised this "law" to rip off more residents out of their hard earned income. Hence, under the guise of "universal health care," Massachusetts has become the first state to force health insurance down the throat of law-abiding citizens ... State

Health provider predicts big loss

Hospital alliance cites impact of reform law. Could cut 300 jobs, suffer $25m shortfall. Jeffrey Krasner, Boston Globe, March 17, 2008 Cambridge Health Alliance, a key part of the Boston area's healthcare network, is facing a potentially "catastrophic" loss this year and is looking to eliminate up to 300 jobs, or about 9 percent of its workforce, in an effort to stabilize finances. The alliance, which includes Cambridge Hospital, Somerville Hospital, and Whidden Hospital in Everett, says it is being hit hard by the state's new healthcare reform law, which has left it responsible for providing free care for those without insurance ... Health

Jordan Hospital in Plymouth begins layoffs

More layoffs likely as facility struggles with budget crunch. Sue Scheible, Patriot Ledger, March 17, 2008 Plymouth - Jordan Hospital has laid off six managers, including two in the nursing department, because of budget problems. Hospital spokesman John Looney said that the six managers were laid off Thursday. More layoffs are likely, Looney said. He cited declining health insurance reimbursements. The hospital failed to meet its budget projections for fiscal 2007 and 2008, and began a reorganization, looking at the way staff and departments are structured to find cost-savings. Although there was a $2.3 million operating gain in 2007, that was less than expected. ... Jordan

Wrong diagnosis (sic)

Marylou Buyse, MD, CEO, Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, Boston Herald, March 17, 2008 The compensation of health plan executives represents a tiny fraction of health care costs - much less than 0.1 percent of total health care revenues are directed toward CEO compensation. Increases in health care costs are driven almost exclusively by medical costs such as hospital care, high-tech equipment and drugs (March 12). Also, their salaries are in line with hospital chiefs’ salaries and are well within any national standards. We need to focus on the real issues that are driving the constant rise in health care costs. The first step is to understand why they are rising. That’s why the health plans last year began voluntarily disclosing their revenues and expenses.

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