At Forum, Patrick Stumps For Global Payments

By Sarah Birnbaum

Apr. 6, 2011

BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick is renewing a push for lower health care costs. On Tuesday, he convened a State House forum on the issue. 
The governor opened the meeting by calling on lawmakers and health care interest groups to rein in the spiraling costs of health care — and to do so quickly.
“We are going to have to solve this problem together. And we have got to stop being defeated by the complexity of it," Patrick said. "Because while we ring our hands about how complicated it is, there are small businesses and working families and working communities going under because premiums keep going up at an unsustainable rate. And you know it.”
Patrick filed a bill back in February that he says will help reduce premiums by changing the way healthcare is paid for. It would move from a fee-for-service system, where every test and procedure is paid for individually, to what’s called “global payment.” 

That means doctors and hospitals would be given a yearly budget for the care of their patients, and therefore would have an incentive to keep them healthy and out of the hospitals, and not to order unnecessary tests. Patrick says that if this bill passes, Massachusetts will lead the nation in health-care cost containment.
But Lora Pelligrini is not convinced. She heads the insurance company trade group, the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans.
“The attorney general in her report last march showed us that providers who are globally paid are some of the highest-paid providers in the state. So paying globally isn’t the panacea,” Pelligrini said.
Pelligrini says a bigger problem than the way doctors and hospitals get paid is that large, name-brand hospitals can charge more for care without necessarily delivering higher quality medicine. She says Patrick should focus on ways to curb the negotiating clout of large hospital groups. 
The cost-containment debate now moves to the Legislature.  A first public hearing on Patrick’s bill is scheduled for May 16.

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