Massachusetts Miracle

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Health leaders seek to change payment system

Urge state to look at link between hospitals, insurers. Alice Dembner, Boston Globe, March 13, 2008 To control soaring healthcare costs in Massachusetts, the state needs to overhaul how doctors and hospitals are paid, several healthcare leaders said yesterday during legislative testimony. Last week Senate President Therese Murray proposed dozens of ways to cut costs, including an end to payments for botched treatment and increasing payments for demonstrated improvements in care. But yesterday two former chairmen of the Legislature's healthcare committee said those changes don't go far enough. ... Health

Health insure bosses make bigtime bucks

Nonprofits defend execs’ pay.
Casey Ross, Boston Herald, March 12, 2008

Bay State health insurance bosses are raking in multimillion-dollar pay packages - and politically wired powerbrokers get tens of thousands as part-time directors - even as the state and its taxpayers struggle to pay skyrocketing health care costs, a Herald review shows.

Legislative panel takes up health care initiative

Associated Press, March 12, 2008 Boston - A bill that targets soaring health care costs will be heard by a legislative panel on Beacon Hill. The measure unveiled earlier this month by Senate President Therese Murray would make Massachusetts the first state to ban doctors from accepting gifts from pharmaceutical firms. It also calls for a statewide electronic medical record-keeping system and public review of any insurance rate increases that exceed 7 percent a year. Murray says her goal is to reduce waste and inefficiencies as the state continues to implement the landmark 2006 law mandating health insurance for all Massachusetts residents. The Legislature’s Health Care Financing committee was scheduled to hear testimony on the bill Wednesday.

Court Lacks Power to Check Legislature

Barbara Roop, PhD, Health Care for Massachusetts Campaign, March 11, 2008

On March 10, 2008 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) issued its opinion on the Health Care Constitutional Amendment.

After all this time it's a huge disappointment to get an opinion that doesn't provide the remedy we were looking for.

It's a loss for the Amendment's supporters.

But it's a much bigger loss for the citizens of Massachusetts. We just
lost one of our constitutional rights to a Legislature that holds
itself above the law. It's a decision that will leave us all thinking
about things for a long time to come.

Another lesson in how not to act

Boston Herald Editorial, March 11, 2008

It was a legal longshot at best.

In the absence of a vote by the Legislature, a group that wants to make
health care a constitutional right in Massachusetts wanted the state’s
highest court to order their question placed on the November 2008
ballot.

But while the Supreme Judicial Court couldn’t go that far yesterday,
the court did provide another valuable lesson in civics - in
particular, in the fundamental notion that lawmakers who are sworn to
uphold the state constitution have a duty to, well, actually do so.

SJC can’t resurrect health care measure

Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press, March 11, 2008 Boston - The state’s
highest court, in a stinging rebuke to lawmakers, said it won’t force
the secretary of state to put a proposed health care question on the
ballot despite the Legislature’s failure to vote on the measure. It was
the second time in the past three years that the Supreme Judicial Court
has criticized lawmakers for failing to fulfill their constitutional
duty to vote on a proposed constitutional amendment after citizens had
gathered tens of thousands of signatures. ... SJC

SJC rejects health care ballot question

CommonHealth, March 10, 2008 The state’s highest court has rejected a
last ditch effort to guarantee health coverage for all citizens of
Massachusetts. The suit was filed last year after the legislature
recessed without voting on a proposed health care constitutional
amendment. Today the SJC agreed that the legislature was required to
take a vote ... but the court said it has no power to order the
question to the ballot. Donald Stern, attorney for the citizens group
working on the amendment, calls the decision disappointing. ... SJC

Health care question can’t go on ballot without legislative OK

Patriot Ledger, March 10, 2008 Boston - The state’s highest court won’t
force the secretary of state to put a proposed health care question on
the ballot despite the Legislature’s failure to vote on the measure.
The proposed constitutional amendment would guarantee comprehensive and
affordable health coverage for all residents. Lawmakers overwhelmingly
approved the measure on an initial vote in 2004, but let it die without
taking a needed second vote. Supporters asked the state Supreme
Judicial Court to put the question on the ballot anyway. The court said
that while the constitution required the second vote, it has no way of
forcing lawmakers to act. Copyright © 2008 GateHouse Media, Inc. Some
Rights Reserved.

Murray sends a message

Boston Globe Editorial, March 6, 2008 Senate President Therese Murray
has taken on a thankless task: containing healthcare costs in
Massachusetts. The bill she filed this week contains several useful
initiatives that should become law, but its greatest value is to show
that the state's political leadership is determined to get these costs
under control. The most impressive aspect of the bill is its insistence
that every physician be connected to an electronic medical records
system by 2015. ... Murray

Ban on gifts to doctors sought

Murray targets firms' freebies. Megan Woolhouse, Boston Globe, March 4,
2008 Senate President Therese Murray proposed a total ban on all gifts
and freebies to doctors from pharmaceutical companies, a move that
would make Massachusetts the first state in the country to ban such
gifts outright. The measure is part of a set of healthcare reform
measures Murray filed in a bill yesterday that also includes requiring
all doctors statewide to adopt electronic medical records by 2015,
allowing patients to choose nurse practitioners as primary care
providers, and forcing public reviews of any insurance company efforts
to boost annual premiums by more than 7 percent. ... Ban

Bill would ban drug-company gifts to doctors

Senate President Therese Murray’s health care reform package would also
forgive loans for nurses and primary care physicians. Sue Scheible,
Brockton Enterprise, March 4, 2008 Taunton/Worcester - Senate President
Therese Murray has unveiled a major new health care bill to make
Massachusetts the first state to ban pharmaceutical agents from giving
gifts of any kind to doctors. The legislation would make the state a
national leader in its use of electronic medical records, allocating
$25 million to jumpstart statewide adoption of a single system and
heighten accountability. ... Bill

Health Care Reform, Phase II, Is Here (sic)

Lisa Kaplan Howe, Health Care For All - Massachusetts, March 3, 2008
Today, Senate Pres. Therese Murray was joined by Sen. Dick Moore and a
dozen-plus other senators at UMass Medical School as she introduced her
much-anticipated health care cost control legislation. She didn’t
disappoint. The 38-point package speaks to numerous aspects of health
care and aims to focus all eyes on the Commonwealth as we lead in cost
reform as we have with access reform. ... Health

Massachusetts lawmakers file bill to reduce health costs through incentives and regulatory pressure

Boston Business Journal, March 3, 2008 Massachusetts Senate leaders
filed a bill Monday that would ban pharmaceutical marketing gifts for
physicians, expand the use of electronic medical records and give
patients the ability to chose nurse practitioners as primary care
providers. The law also adds regulatory pressure on insurers to justify
large rate increases or face public scrutiny of their finances and
executive pay. Lawmakers also want to coax providers to reduce costs
and increase the use of computers. ... Massachusetts

Senate President Announces Major Legislation to Advance Massachusetts Health Care Reform

Electronic medical records and gift ban in place. Pharmalive, March 3,
2008 Boston – Senate President Therese Murray, along with her
colleagues in the Senate, today announced major health care legislation
that will make Massachusetts a national leader in the statewide
adoption of electronic medical records and the first in the country to
impose an outright ban on pharmaceutical marketing gifts of any value.
... Senate

Decline is seen in use of free care

State health law having an effect. Alice Dembner, Boston Globe, March
3, 2008 In one sign that Massachusetts' healthcare initiative is
succeeding, use of the "free care pool" dropped by about 16 percent in
the program's first year, as the state insured 200,000 low-income
residents, according to new state figures. The decline in free care use
is a crucial measure of the impact of insuring people, and is being
watched by the federal government and others to gauge the progress
toward universal health insurance. ... Decline

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