State Senate Targets Health Care Costs

By Sarah Birnbaum

May 10, 2012

BOSTON — Massachusetts state Senate leaders released a proposal on Wednesday to drastically rein in the cost of health care. The House released a similar measure last week.
Both bills would impose a cap on overall health care spending and both would establish a regulatory authority to help doctors, hospitals and insurers meet the limits. If the bill passes, lawmakers say family premiums will fall by nearly $2,000 compared to forecasts in the next 5 years. 
The spending limits in the Senate bill are slightly less aggressive, but both bills would keep growth in health care spending in line with annual increases in the gross state product. That could mean deep cuts: Health care spending has been growing at least twice as fast as the state’s overall economy. 
Sandra Fenwick, the president of Children’s Hospital Boston, said hospitals are already bringing down costs on their own.   
“The question is, is this really much more proscriptive than it really needs to be rather than being supportive and encouraging of what’s already in place," she said. "That’s really what we were hoping government would do — is just encourage the progress that’s already underway as opposed to creating a mandated solution set.” 
Senate Ways and Means Chairman Stephen Brewer (D-Barre) expected some version of the bill to pass, despite pushback from hospitals, saying, "The plan the Senate has come out with has been worked out at tables, very large tables, for 2 years. At the end of the day, I expect we will get a bill on the governor’s desk and move forward." 
The Senate plans to debate the health care cost containment bill the week of May 14. The House could vote on its version of the bill around the beginning of June. 

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