Senate Releases Healthcare Report and Draft Legislation Result of yearlong effort to address rising costs and consumer protections

BOSTON-On Oct. 17, the Massachusetts Senate released a report “Working Together to Improve Our Health: Right Care, Right Place, Fair Price, Recommendations from the Senate Working Group on Health Care Cost Containment and Reform,” that focuses on both short and long terms goals on how to fix our healthcare system to lower costs, improve outcomes, and maintain access.  The report and accompanying draft legislation is the result of effort by a group of Senators to address the healthcare system by analyzing the best practices in other states and engaging stakeholders in a series of meetings over the last year.

“Massachusetts should continue to lead on healthcare, and having a robust economy depends upon on lowering costs for everyone without compromising quality or access. The recommendations in this report will help working families, businesses, and our state budget,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “I’m very proud of the work the Senate did to craft a comprehensive report and draft legislation that touches so many aspects of our healthcare system and meets the needs of all engaged stakeholders.”

“Last year the Senate created a Health Care Cost Containment Working Group with hopes of creating legislation to not only reign in health care costs, but also empower consumers, boost innovation and care delivery, and foster a fair and functioning commercial market. This bill is the direct result of this working group’s efforts,” said Senator Jim Welch (D-West Springfield) Senate Chair of the Committee on Health Care Finance and leader of the working group.

Healthcare costs are continuing to strain the budget of working families, businesses, and working families. The Senate has continued to push for reforms to the current system through diligent research, stakeholder engagement, and legislation. The working group of Senators, with the logistical support of the Milbank Memorial Fund spent the last year meeting with officials from seven states, healthcare experts, and stakeholders to examine best practices while lowering costs and improving outcomes.

“Attempts to control healthcare costs within the present private insurance system have failed, and costs have steadily consumed more state, municipal, business and household budgets,” said Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington). “This legislation is a step in the right direction in addressing rising healthcare costs that have put a strain on many families in our state. I look forward to working with my colleagues to strengthen the bill to ensure that we continue to develop the most efficient way to deliver high quality healthcare coverage to consumers at a fair price.”

The goals outlined in the report vary from more effective care delivery such as telemedicine and mobile integrated health to reducing emergency room visits to expanding provider versatility while also addressing price variation between larger hospitals and their smaller community hospital counterparts. The report outlines a series of recommendations that will achieve these goals and lower costs as a result of implementation.

The report aims to reduce hospital re-admissions and emergency department use through mobile integrated health and telemedicine as well as expanding access to behavioral health.   Massachusetts Health Policy Commission has estimated that 42 percent of all Emergency department visits are avoidable.

Post-acute care in an institutional setting and long term care and supports (LTSS) cost the state an estimated $4.7 billion in 2015, a major cost driver for MassHealth. The report recommends increased transition planning for patients into community settings and strengthening coordination between providers.

Pharmaceutical costs have been a driver of increased healthcare costs for a number of years. The Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA) reported a 6.4 percent growth in pharmaceutical spending in 2016. Drug costs are making families choose between filling prescriptions and paying for other essentials like housing and food. The report recommends greater oversight and transparency in drug costs and encourages Massachusetts to enter into bulk purchasing arrangements, including a multistate drug purchasing consortium like other states, to lower costs and protect consumers.

The scope of the report encompasses the whole system from Medicaid to the commercials market, and makes additional recommendations on how to lower costs, address price variation, increase price transparency for consumers, leverage better federal funding opportunities, and many other recommendations. A copy of the report and draft legislation can be found here.

A hearing on the report and draft legislation has been set for Monday, October 23 at 11:30.