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Primary Cheat Sheet On Mass. Governor Candidates’ Health Care Positions

Judging by your presence at this url, you are, perhaps, not entirely indifferent to health care? And you may, in fact, live in the lovely Bay State, according to the results of an unscientific reader survey we did once. So, in case you plan to vote in the 2014 state gubernatorial primaries, we’ve compiled a health care cheat sheet. We requested brief position statements from the five candidates facing a primary contest. In alphabetical order, and with a link to the full campaign site on each name:

Charlie Baker:
Massachusetts had a health care system that worked, with nearly every citizen having access to the high quality care they preferred, but the disastrous Health Connector website launch and the burdensome federal health overhaul disrupted that for far too many Massachusetts families. As Governor, I will fight for a waiver from the federal health law to protect Massachusetts’ exemplary health care system. I have also proposed a plan to improve the quality of health care, increase transparency and reduce costs for families. My proposals will allow patients to act as informed consumers, prioritize primary care – giving patients with multiple illnesses better treatment – and protect Massachusetts’ health system from federal burdens.

Don Berwick:
Massachusetts needs a Governor who understands how good care could be, what better payment systems look like, and how to reorganize care with patients at the center. Don is a pediatrician and an executive who has spent 30 years working to make health care work better, at a lower cost. He is the only candidate for governor supporting single payer health care – Medicare for all. Health care is now 42% of our state budget, up 59% in the last decade alone. Every other major line item in our budget is down. Single payer health care would be simpler, more affordable, more focused on the patient, and it would be a huge jobs creator.

Martha Coakley:
As Governor, Martha will have three goals for our healthcare system: expanding access, maintaining quality, and driving down cost. She has already taken the lead on controlling costs, publishing a series of groundbreaking reports that shed light on the cost-drivers in our system, and going forward she will focus on investing in proven prevention, promoting the role of community health centers, and increasing transparency. She is especially committed to improving care for those struggling with mental and behavioral illness and substance abuse; she has called for higher reimbursements for community-based services, more coverage from private insurance, and incentives for greater coordination of care. She believes we must end the stigma associated with mental and behavioral health.

Mark Fisher:
Did not respond but his campaign’s Web page on health care is here.

Steve Grossman:
We need to revolutionize the delivery of health care services to reduce or eliminate health disparities, primarily by significantly increasing our commitment to and investment in community hospitals and health centers. We must also use every appropriate tool to rein in excessive price increases at our largest medical institutions that could severely undermine achieving the goals of Chapter 224. That’s why I oppose the Partners HealthCare deal Martha Coakley has negotiated, which according to the Health Policy Commission, would raise costs by tens of millions of dollars and harm Massachusetts families and businesses. As governor, I plan to lead a serious conversation with the people of Massachusetts concerning single payer as a vehicle for reforming our health payment system, a conversation that the Boston Globe described in its editorial endorsement of me as “precisely what’s in order.”

Note: We don’t include the independents because we focused on the candidates running in the primary.

Charlie Baker: Health Reform Deja Vu But Maybe This Time…

Charlie Baker, recent Republican gubernatorial candidate and former head of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, has just joined the venture capital world, but in his spare time he can still serve as health policy wise man.

He moderated yesterday’s global payments debate at Suffolk University, and opened with a sobering description of how much the current push toward the next phase of health care reform reminds him of what people tried — and failed — to do about 20 years ago. But sometimes, “what goes around comes around,” he said, and with health care costs continuing to climb, “maybe it’s time where people will start thinking about moving in a signficantly different direction.”

One-Word Mass. Candidate Roundup On Health Care Costs

The latest roundup of Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates’s positions on health care comes from the Boston Globe here. The Globe asked each: “If elected, how will you control health care costs?” WBUR’s similar roundup is here and the Massachusetts Medical Society’s is here.

But let me save you some time. Here’s a single word or phrase that seems to sum up what each candidate emphasizes most:

Jill Stein, Green-Rainbow Party: Single-payer.

Charlie Baker, Republican: Transparency.

Tim Cahill, independent: Competition.

Deval Patrick, Democrat: Payment reform.

Candidates On Health Care, In A Nutshell

The issues are complex. But today, WBUR’s Martha Bebinger skillfully distills the four Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates’ stands on health care into easy-to-digest positions.

Read or listen here.

And here are the Cliff Notes:

Jill Stein, Green-Rainbow Party: Supports a single-payer system, a “Medicare for All.”

Deval Patrick, Democratic incumbent: “No major changes to the landmark coverage law, but big changes in how we pay doctors and hospitals,” toward a “global payment” system.

Charlie Baker, Republican: “Less expensive, but probably less comprehensive health insurance and posting prices to drive down the cost of care.”

Tim Cahill, independent: More choice on insurance; revamp the coverage law so fewer people are subsidized; slow spending on health care without losing jobs.

Succinct Videos of Candidates On Health Care

Where do the four Massachusetts candidates for governor stand on health care? The Massachusetts Medical Society asked, and filmed the candidate’s succinct answers — lasting between three and nine minutes — here.

One central contrast: Deval Patrick says the next major step is payment reform; Charlie Baker says he doesn’t believe the payment system is broken.

Patrick Vs. Baker on Harvard Pilgrim Record

Gubernatorial candidates (and moderator Jon Keller, center)

In last night’s gubernatorial debate, health care and its ever-escalating costs were a central point of contention. WBUR’s Martha Bebinger reports:

The candidates focused on rising health care costs several times during the debate. Patrick tried to pin the problem on Baker, who ran Harvard Pilgrim Health Care before leaving to campaign for governor.

“Health care costs are the single biggest concern of businesses, it’s what I hear everywhere, and you’ve been at the center of that. You’ve raised premiums 150 percent,” Patrick says.

Baker points out that Harvard Pilgrim was even with, or less expensive than other private insurers during his tenure.

“Harvard Pilgrim grew by 45 percent over the last seven years I was there because our premiums were priced competitively, but there were a lot of issues with regard to the rules, regs and requirements that haven’t solved the health care problem in Massachusetts and most of those rest with state government,” he says. Continue reading