For Immediate Release - January 21, 2015

Health Policy Commission Issues Recommendations to Increase Affordability, Quality of Health Care in Massachusetts in 2014 Cost Trends Report

Cutting edge recommendations and commitments present opportunities for enhancing the transparency, quality, and affordability of health care system

BOSTON – Tuesday, January 20, 2015 – The Massachusetts Health Policy Commission (HPC) today released its 2014 Annual Health Care Cost Trends Report (available here) at its Board Meeting. The report builds off of the preliminary findings issued at the December 17, 2014 meeting (available here), and makes strong policy recommendations for market participants and other government agencies, as well as commitments for the HPC in 2015. Additionally, HPC staff highlighted key accomplishments from participants in Phase One of the Community Hospital Acceleration, Revitalization, and Transformation (CHART) Investment Program, a four-year community hospital program aimed at enhancing their delivery of efficient, effective care.

“While meeting the benchmark set forth in Chapter 224 is significant, continuing that trend is an important part of HPC’s mission. The recommendations outlined in the report will help accomplish the Commonwealth’s goals,” said Dr. Stuart H. Altman, Chair of the Health Policy Commission and health economist. “The HPC looks forward to working with its industry and government partners to create opportunities for progress in the health care system, both through our research, our policy, and our investments.”

The report includes specific commitments from the HPC and recommendations to market participants and other state agencies to help foster a value-based market, promote high-quality and efficient health care delivery, continue advancing alternative payment methods (APMs), and enhance transparency and data availability. During the December 17, 2014 meeting, the HPC presented key findings, including 2013 overall health care cost growth of 2.3%, below the 3.6% benchmark, and presented opportunities to reduce costs and improve the Massachusetts health care system (press release available here).

“The recommendations and commitments made by the HPC not only show the importance of transparency but the power it has in reducing costs and improving the quality of care consumers receive,” said David Seltz, Executive Director of the Health Policy Commission. “The HPC will continue to lead in this area and looks forward to working with our partners to implement these recommendations and make the Commonwealth stronger in the long term.”

2014 Health Care Cost Trends Report: Key recommendations

While the report shows the Commonwealth below the state cost growth benchmark set by HPC, challenges remain to ensure the trend continues. In its report, the HPC released important recommendations to help improve the health care system, including:

HPC 2015 Priorities:

  • HPC will develop a set of publicly available measures to track health system performance, enabling the Commonwealth to set concrete goals for advancement.
  • HPC will convene stakeholders to explore episode-based payment models.
  • HPC will convene providers and provide technical assistance and investments to support providers in making improvements in care delivery.

Impact of Market Changes: The HPC recommends that providers proposing market changes should demonstrate to the HPC how such changes will generate specific, measurable improvements, such as in efficiency and quality, that will be passed along to employers and consumers. Providers should demonstrate that those measureable benefits outweigh potential detriments to the Commonwealth and commit to a process and targets for ongoing measurement and evaluation of progress.

Providing Value:

    • Massachusetts should lead the nation in direct-to-consumer transparency, enabling access to detailed information on the prospective cost and quality of services.
    • Payers should continue to develop and promote value-oriented products and employers should offer plan choices to include those products.

Key Government Agencies:

  • The Commonwealth should develop a coordinated behavioral health strategy.
    • Specifically: the Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA), should begin collecting data in priority areas, and, through the Behavioral Health Data Task Force, should identify any additional data gaps and develop a plan for closing such gaps over the next year.
    • The Department of Public Health (DPH), Department of Mental Health (DMH), MassHealth (the state Medicaid program), and the HPC should coordinate and adopt policies to promote behavioral health integration efforts.
  • The Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA) should improve all-payer claims database (APCD) capabilities and develop key spending measures.
  • MassHealth should continue progress towards developing and launching an ACO.

Alternative-Payment Methods (APMs): Payers and providers should continue to focus on increasing adoption of APMs and on increasing the effectiveness of APMs in promoting high quality, efficient care.

Community hospital investment Program: Phase one accomplishments 

The Community Hospital Acceleration, Revitalization, and Transformation (CHART) Investment Program is a four-year program that makes phased investments for certain Massachusetts community hospitals to enhance their delivery of efficient, effective care. In October 2013, the HPC made $10 million available for Phase One investments and in January 2014 awarded 28 community hospitals with funds to enhance the delivery of efficient, effective health care across Massachusetts. Key accomplishments for Phase One were highlighted at the meeting, including:

  • More than 2,200 hospital employees trained;
  • 27 hospitals primed for a system transformation;
  • Approximately 160,000 patients have been positively impacted by Phase One initiative;
  • More than 300 community partnerships were formed or enhanced by Phase One awardees; and
  • More than 400 hours of direct technical assistance given to Phase One awardees.

In October 2014, HPC announced awards to 28 community hospitals with a groundbreaking $60 million in investments to improve community-oriented care for patients with complex social and medical needs, and to increase access to high quality behavioral health services through CHART Phase 2. A complete listing of awards is located here.

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The HPC is an independent state agency that monitors reform in the health care delivery and payment systems and develops policies to reduce overall cost growth while improving the quality of patient care. To learn more, please visit www.mass.gov/hpc or follow us on Twitter @Mass_HPC.