In seeking to trim health care costs, the state must not try to exert too much control over providers, writes Lynn Nicholas, the president and CEO of the Massachusetts Hospital Association. In fact, overzealous expansion of centralized government control could impede rapid innovation and improved efficiency, rather than facilitate those goals.
The long effort to develop an effective cost-containment law for the Massachusetts health-care system has entered a worrisome phase. With just two weeks left in the Legislature’s formal session, a conference committee is reportedly making little headway on resolving critical differences and arriving at compromise legislation. The committee must put aside egos and pride of authorship and focus on crafting realistic, light-touch legislation that promotes cost containment goals without over-reaching.
A recent comparison of world health shows that countries that spend less often have higher quality care, writes Daniel Vasella, chairman of Novartis. No one country has the secret recipe: diabetes treatment is better in the UK, for instance, while the US has better breast cancer results. The study shows that countries still have a lot to learn from one other before they try to legislate sweeping health care changes.
Dying patients often receive aggressive, expensive treatment that many would reject if they had a fuller understanding of their options, writes Dr. Angelo Volandes. A series of videos showing what end-of-life care really looks like has allowed patients at a handful of hospitals to make better informed choices. An intervention that first and foremost leads to better patient-centered health care — and also happens to lower costs — is a good thing, and more hospitals should embrace it.
June 1, 2012 | David U. Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler
A public health insurance system like Canada’s would dramatically slice health bills in Massachusetts by cutting out the insurance-company middleman, write doctors David U. Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler. A single-payer plan would also enable the state to drive a harder bargain with pharmaceutical companies for cheaper drugs. To make care more affordable, the state should also change the way doctors and hospitals are paid, so that money goes to services the state needs the most.
A few health insurance plans already feature innovative new strategies to lower costs, writes Eric Beyer, the CEO and president of Tufts Medical Center — but few employers are buying them. Before the state embraces calls to make those types of plans more widespread, we need to understand why employers don’t like them.
Massachusetts should look overseas for successful strategies to make health spending sustainable, write Alan Sager and Deborah Socolar. The plans under considersation in the Legislature are too weak to be effective.
Unless Massachusetts finds a way to limit growth in the number of both hospitals and specialists, the state’s efforts to control health care spending are likely to fail, says Shannon Brownlee. How can more hospital beds and more doctors lead to worse care and higher spending? Basic economics would suggest that more hospitals competing with one another would lead to lower costs — but that’s not the case in health care.
To bring down the price of health insurance, lawmakers should relax some of the mandated coverage items that add to premiums, writes Jon B. Hurst of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. Lawmakers should also put pressure on the state’s bloated hospitals to slim down, and reward individual consumers who stay healthy. And they must act urgently: costs that have skyrocketed an average of 14 percent per year over the last five years are crippling small businesses.
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