Boston Herald Editorial
May 14, 2012 ... Unveiling their health care cost-containment bill a few weeks ago, House leaders called for a “gentle push” from government, one that eases the burden of high health-care costs on businesses and families but avoids damaging the industry that employs one in seven Bay State residents.
But it turns out the bill released by the Senate last week is the one with the gentler touch.
Both bills, for example, set firm targets for total medical spending in this state, the prod they say is necessary to start bringing down health care costs.
But industry leaders are concerned that the aggressive House target — a rate of growth equal to the state economy’s, minus half a percent — will have a damaging effect on the economy.
The business community argues that the health care industry should be forced to make even more dramatic spending cuts, to have any meaningful impact on consumers. But the Senate target of health care spending at a rate equal to gross state product within five years is still a vast improvement on the status quo.
So out of the gate the Senate is more realistic about how government can address — if not “solve” — increasing health care costs, without inviting job losses.
Beyond that, to its credit, the Senate does more than the House to emphasize the role of the marketplace to produce results.
The House, for example, would grant a new quasi-public agency vast authority to monitor and regulate medical spending. Should providers and health plans miss the agreed-upon spending targets, for example, that agency would step in to force them to renegotiate their contracts.
And when it comes to provider fees, the House applies a “luxury tax” on high-cost providers who can’t prove their rates are justified by better quality, while the Senate calls for development of a confidential “improvement plan” to further reduce costs.
The Senate also focuses its most aggressive cost-containment efforts on programs that are directly within the state’s control, which is as it should be. While it encourages alternative payment systems for private health plans and providers (who are already pursuing such arrangements aggressively on their own), it only mandates them in the near term for government health programs such as MassHealth and the Group Insurance Commission.
Both bills call for a huge one-time assessment on the industry but it escapes us how forcing providers and insurers to fork over $200 million to the state will do anything to reduce costs.
With the House bill running to 178 pages, and the Senate’s to 236, it is disingenuous for anyone to suggest that either is a model of bureaucratic restraint. But where House leaders say their bill strikes the proper balance between government intervention and respect for market-based reforms, the Senate bill seems to actually do so.
This editorial appears courtesy of the Boston Herald.