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David_morales Posted by: David Morales, Commissioner, Division of Health Care Finance and Policy

Last week the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy convened unprecedented public hearings on health care cost trends in Massachusetts – a major step in moving the conversation about how we mitigate health care costs into concrete next steps that will result in deliberate action.

The next step is to digest both the written and oral testimony and the meaningful points raised during candid panel discussions and issue a final report. This report will include concrete recommendations to the Legislature on both short-term and long-term solutions to the health care cost problem that can be accomplished through both legislative and regulatory actions.

Hearing attendees heard from a variety of key stakeholders – national health policy experts, local leaders in the health care delivery system, employers, and consumers – as they wrestled with the various challenges related to health care cost growth. Conflicting viewpoints regarding the reasons for Massachusetts’ rapidly rising health care costs, as well as the solutions to the problem, made for a rich and lively debate.

There were also some key areas where a broad spectrum of stakeholders agreed, including calls for:

  • Immediate action to mitigate growth in health care costs;
  • Improvement in the coordination of care at all levels;
  • The passage of legislation that reforms the way we pay for health care in the state by moving away from the fee-for-service model (which rewards utilization, not quality) to one which rewards access to primary care;
  • Quick action to promote transparency in health care products, services and prices;
  • Market reforms to incent insurers and employers to offer select networks and flexible benefit products.

On the first day of the hearings, remarks by Governor Deval Patrick and Senate President Therese Murray reminded those in attendance of the extraordinary leadership, commitment, and political will that the Commonwealth has from the Administration and the Legislature to support health care reform and to tackle health care costs with urgency.

These remarks were dove-tailed by presentations of research findings from the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Division of Insurance.

To round out day one, consumers and employers then shared stories about the real-life effects of the upward spiral of health care costs. These panelists made it clear that health reform is not the reason for our cost problem, rather the reasons are systemic issues that we must resolve by implementing strategies that will provide immediate relief to residents and businesses. More importantly, our actions must also lead to lasting, meaningful change in the Massachusetts health care system.

Lastly, thank you to all who participated in and attended the hearings last week for their thoughtful ideas, input, and partnership as the Commonwealth seeks to tackle this important public policy challenge.

Please also see this post:
David Morales, Commissioner, Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, WBUR, CommonHealth Blog, Wednesday, March 24, 2010

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