I envy the good people of Massachusetts at least one thing: (in my humble opinion) the Boston Globe has the best coverage of local health policy. (Pity me, I’m stuck with the Los Angeles Times, and its kin.)
Prompted by the BoGlo’s coverage of out-of-control health-care spending in the wake of the Bay State’s April 2006 law mandating so-called “universal” health care, governor Deval Patrick has threatened the health-care industry (both insurers and providers) with price controls.
His administration has asked health-care bosses, especially Partners HealthCare (which owns most of Boston’s hospital-capacity) and the state’s largest insurer, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mass., “to refrain from signing new contracts that cover patient care beyond this year, until the government has time to consider potential reform measures.”
It’s remarkable because these two elephants signed a multi-year contract last year that covers annual cost-increases of 5% to 6%. So, the governor is demanding that the state’s largest hospital system and largest health insurer stop long-term planning until the state’s government gets its act together on health “reform”. (It’s hard to remember that it was supposed to have been “reformed” less than three years ago!)
While the BoGlo’s investigative reporters have determined that hospitals in Boston have cost-variances of 30%, with no difference in quality, the governor is trying to put the brakes on private initiatives to respond to this information.
Fortunately, it looks like these initatives continue, despite the governor’s flailing. Blue Cross & Blue Shield just signed a contract with Tufts Medical Center that includes a type of pay-for-performance that they call an “alternative quality contract.”
It must be incredibly difficult for payers and providers to negotiate such a contract, in the face of Massachusetts’ spiralling health-care costs, which are driven by “universal” health care. Governor Patrick would serve the public interest by keeping his nose out of it. Massachusetts politicians have done enough already, to mess up health care in the Bay State.