As other parts of the nation continue to wrestle with how to expand access to health insurance, Massachusetts – having already achieved more than 97 percent insurance coverage – is turning its focus toward mitigating rising health care costs. While there is no question that Massachusetts leads the nation on access to health care, the rapid growth in health insurance costs cuts into peoples’ wages, burdens families, reduces their insurance benefits, and forces employers to choose between investing in new jobs and paying for employee health insurance. In fact, the cost of health insurance has grown by approximately 7.5 percent each year (on average) for the last decade while gross domestic product (GDP) has only increased 3.8 percent per year during that same time period.
There is no easy answer or solution to this intensifying challenge, but in 2008, the legislature passed a law that directed the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy (the Division) to convene hearings on health care cost trends and develop recommendations thereafter to address this serious issue. The annual hearings will begin on March 16. In anticipation of these hearings, the Division released a series of reports that analyze the Massachusetts health care marketplace and insurer and provider claims trends. These reports, as well as other relevant materials issued by the Division of Insurance and the Office of the Attorney General, will serve as “table-setters” for the hearings and can be found at http://www.mass.gov/dhcfp/costtrends.
The goal of the hearings will be to convene key health care stakeholders – health care providers, insurers, employers, consumers, and experts – in order to surface the factors driving health care costs and to identify solutions that will mitigate growth in health care spending in Massachusetts. The Division intends to build upon its earlier analyses on premium and medical costs trends as well as the work conducted by the Division of Insurance during and after their hearings on the small group insurance market, and the Attorney General’s Office, assembled through their civil investigatory demand process. These hearings will move the conversation on health care cost forward and culminate in a final report with action-oriented recommendations to mitigate cost growth and improve our health care delivery system.
These hearings will be open to the public and residents are encouraged to participate in this critical conversation about how the health care community can work together and develop concrete solutions to lower rising health care costs. In the same sense that there was a shared responsibility for expansion of coverage in Massachusetts, all stakeholders must work together to maximize quality and efficiency in our system. Massachusetts can once again be a model for the nation on health care, but we must use our collective expertise to mitigate the rapid growth in costs so we can continue to provide nearly all Massachusetts residents with access to affordable, quality health care and keep our economy strong.
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