deval patrick. greg sullivan

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First Hearing On MA Health Reform, 2011: Where Does Everybody Stand?

Okay. I’ve posted Attorney General Martha Coakley here. I’ve posted Gov. Deval Patrick here. Now for everybody else. Today’s State House hearing was the season opener, time for the players in Massachusetts health reform — from huge hospital systems to individual consumers — to stake out their opening positions. How do they see Gov. Patrick’s proposal for the next, cost-cutting phase of health care reform? What are their concerns?

Here’s my overarching impression: General support for the idea of shifting the system toward payment for “global” budgets for “whole-patient” care, away from fragmented payments for each service. And broad concern that if done wrong, it could hurt.

Full testimony is available from several major organizations. The Massachusetts Medical Society is here. The Pioneer Institute is here. Health Care For All is here. I’ll post more as I get them, and you’re deeply welcome to share links or thoughts in the Comments section below.

Meanwhile, here are some noteworthy moments from the first three hours or so of today’s hearing:

Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, secretary of health and human services, and the governor’s point person on the bill:

What’s wrong with our current health care system is that it “doesn’t consistently pay for the right thing.” That is, “The problem with the way we pay for care is that it’s based on insurance billing codes and not based on what patients need and what physicians are trained to do.”

Many payers and providers are already moving away from fee-for-service and forming more integrated care organizations, but it is a change that we must all approach with great care. It is because this transition requires thoughtful planning and should not take place in a haphazard manner that the governor’s bill is so necessary.

‘Our only beef, quite frankly, is that this is a very government-centric, Cabinet-centric approach’ — Lynn Nicholas, Massachusetts Hospital Association

Secretary of housing and economic development Gregory Bialecki:
“The health care cost crisis in Massachusetts is the primary roadblock to our continuing recovery.”

The governor’s bill “sends the message to businesses that their health care costs, which they see right now as being out of control, are going to become more consistent and more predictable and frankly more rational

Bialecki said he sees no evidence that the governor’s bill would hurt employment in the health care industry.

Not a return to the bad old days of HMOs

Rep. Steven Walsh, house chair of the committee, expressed concerns that the reform would be a throwback to the bad old days of HMOs, and people might find themselves unable to get care at top specialty hospitals such as Children’s Hospital and Dana Farber Cancer Institute. JudyAnn Bigby’s response: Continue reading