steven walsh

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Key Mass. Player Reveals Health Reform Thinking

Read a related news report by WBUR’s Martha Bebinger here.

• “Everybody needs to have a primary care provider or ‘medical home.'”
• “It should be possible to cut the growth rate of our medical spending in half within about three years.”
• “Without good information on costs and quality, patients can’t make good choices.”

If I were drawing a diagram of what’s inside the “health reform” area of Rep. Steve Walsh’s brain, it would depict a welter of circles with phrases like those inside them. That’s the impression I came away with after a public forum earlier this week.

Steve, a Lynn Democrat, is the House chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing in the Massachusetts legislature. As such, he took the health reform hand-off from Gov. Deval Patrick this spring — that is to say, when the governor filed his bill aimed at containing health care costs. Steve was charged by Speaker Bob DeLeo to travel around the state on a listening tour about how the health care system should change. He’s since held 400-plus meetings (Not a typo: 400) with all interested parties, and he’s now working to pull together what he heard into a set of principles to guide reform.

‘When you move around one-third of $70 billion, there are winners and there are losers.’

Earlier this week, he presented his current thinking, distilled down into seven main points, to a small audience at Harvard’s Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, where he is a fellow. Appearing with him was Harvard economist David Cutler, who gave him high marks. Steve stressed that he was reporting back about what he heard, not outlining legislation, but it strikes me as an important first glimpse into where a key legislative player’s head is at — at this point, at least. (Read WBUR’s Martha Bebinger on it here.)

Readers, reactions welcome. And if you read to the end, you’ll get to similar smoke signals coming from the Senate. I think I see the shape of something beginning to emerge from all that smoke — and it should actually coalesce into a bill late this fall or, perhaps more likely, in February.

Herewith, Steve Walsh’s seven points:

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