The Massachusetts House Tuesday night overwhelmingly approved its 278-page plan to curb the soaring cost of medical care. The final vote -- 148 to 7 -- sets up what could be difficult negotiations between the House and the Senate, which approved its own cost-control legislation last month.
The House debated hundreds of amendments but did not make significant changes to its bill, although it did adopt a $20-million tax on hospitals and insurers that would fund prevention and public health programs.
In a written statement from House Speaker Robert DeLeo summarizing the bill, House leaders laid out high hopes for what the proposal could achieve for consumers.
“Massachusetts has the best health care system in the nation, but we also lead in medical spending,” said Steven Walsh, a Democrat from Lynn who oversaw the House effort. “Health insurance premiums for a family average over $15,000 annually and mean lower wages, and less money for mortgages, rent, car payments, food, and tuition. This legislation focuses on increasing efficiency, eliminating waste, and curbing costs, all while enhancing the quality of care that our patients receive. We will not only save money for Massachusetts citizens, but we will save our health care system over $160 billion in the next fifteen years.”
The House and Senate plans contain key differences - particularly over how much the health care industry can be relied on to control costs on its own - that will be debated intensely in the coming two months. The Senate bill generally allows doctors and hospitals more leeway to find their own solutions, while the House wants more oversight.
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