For immediate release: May 8, 2012

(BOSTON) – House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, Chairman Steven Walsh of the Committee on Health Care Financing, and the members of the committee have announced  a comprehensive plan aimed at curbing health care costs and empowering patients.

The bill, released by the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, comes six years after Massachusetts passed the nation’s first universal health care law. The bill provides a responsible way to curb health care costs by attempting to build on existing incentives and market forces.

“Our goal with this bill has been to limit cost growth while maintaining high quality health care and innovation,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “This bill is an economic development tool. Lowering health care costs will place Massachusetts in a stronger fiscal position for the future with the ability to maintain and attract jobs.”

“Our current health care system rewards high-volume, expensive care that is not necessarily higher in quality,” said Chairman Steven Walsh, Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “Under this legislation, providers will be incentivized to practice the best possible care at a reasonable price, and consumers will be provided with the necessary information to actively participate in making personal health care decisions. This bill strikes the right balance in controlling our rising health care costs while improving the quality of care that our patients receive.”

“This bill is crucial to reigning in health care costs and improving the quality of care for every citizen,” said Representative Mark Cusack, a member of the Health Care Finance Committee.  “At a time when health care costs are skyrocketing and many citizens are experiencing difficulties with their coverage, this bill will help to make health care simpler, increase savings to families and businesses and lessen the amount of litigation involving malpractice lawsuits.”

The bill empowers patients by giving them information they need to make informed decisions about health care. For the first time, patients will have online access to detailed comparative price and quality information, categorized by medical procedure, provider and payer. Likewise, it gives providers the cost and quality of health care services and patient-specific data to aid doctors in treating patients.

“This plan embraces common sense solutions to lower costs and improve care without having the government regulate rates,” continued Representative Cusack.

The bill comes as health care spending takes up a larger and larger percentage of the state’s budget; Premiums for a family average over $15,000 annually and each year health care costs comprise a greater percentage of our state budget.

The bill, among other things, also:

  • Creates an electronic health record system to allow patients and providers readily accessible information. This will save money and improve quality;
  • Establishes the Health Care Workforce Trust Fund to better prepare workers for the health care jobs of the future;
  • Puts a premium on prevention and wellness (businesses are eligible for a $10K tax credit by establishing a wellness program);
  • Simplifies payer coverage and claims information;
  • Allows for providers to make use of an ‘apology’ provision to reduce litigation and cut costs;
  • Streamlines health care governance bringing all state agencies under the Division of Health Care Cost and Quality;
  • Sets a predictable goal for health care cost growth, Gross State Product -0.5% in three years;
  • Facilitates the use of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and Patient-Centered Medical Homes to improve treatment;

The bill now moves to the House Committee on Ways & Means.