The Massachusetts House overwhelmingly approved its 278-page plan to curb the soaring cost of medical care on Tuesday night. House members debated more than 250 amendments but did not make significant changes to the bill.
The final vote — 148 to 7 — sets up negotiations over the next two months between the House and the Senate, which approved its own cost-control legislation last month. Their plans contain key differences, particularly over how much the health care industry can be relied on to control costs on its own. The Senate bill generally allows doctors and hospitals more leeway to find their own solutions, while the House wants more oversight.
Both plans require the health care industry to reduce the growth in spending. By 2016, the House calls for spending to shrink to half a percentage point less than the rate of growth of the average gross state product, a measure of economic activity. The Senate believes the industry should not be forced to grow more slowly than the economy overall.
The House also is proposing a “luxury tax” on providers that charge prices deemed excessive and that they cannot prove are linked to above-average quality or unique services.
The House and Senate also will have to negotiate with Governor Deval Patrick, who said Monday that he would like the final bill to address how hospitals with strong market share drive costs. While he is unconvinced that the luxury tax is the way to do that, Patrick said “enhancing” the power of Attorney General Martha Coakley to address antitrust activity may be necessary.