PATRICK-MURRAY ADMINISTRATION GATHERS INDUSTRY LEADERS, STAKEHOLDERS TO DISCUSS NEXT PHASE OF HEALTH CARE REFORM
Governor Patrick leads information session on how to address cost challenges in Massachusetts and promote cost-containment initiatives underway
The health care cost-containment information session, held at the State House this morning, included participation from stakeholder groups ranging from health care providers, insurers and doctors, to legislators and consumers. Panelists during the forum included Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, Secretary of Administration and Finance Jay Gonzalez, Undersecretary of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation Barbara Anthony, Executive Director of the Health Connector Glen Shor, and Executive Director of the Group Insurance Commission (GIC) Dolores Mitchell.
"Just as we have shown the Nation how to deliver care to everyone, we can and will be the ones to crack the code on cost containment," said Governor Patrick. "The details of health care reform may seem complex, but our goals and values are universal - better, more affordable health care for us all."
The discussion focused on several recent cost containment proposals and ongoing initiatives, including legislation filed by Governor Patrick in January to help cities and towns realize immediate cost savings in their municipal health insurance plans; the Administration's comprehensive health care payment and delivery reform legislation filed in February to control rising health care costs and improve patient care; and the Massachusetts Health Connector's procurement strategy to contain costs by promoting innovation and competition among the state's managed care organizations. In addition, the Group Insurance Commission's efforts to control rate increases and incent employees to move to lower cost plans panelists also reviewed.
"We are pleased the fight against rising health care costs continues to be the priority focus for the Patrick Administration," said Jon B. Hurst, President of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. "The fight will not be over until small businesses can obtain comparable coverage for comparable premiums and equal rights in the health insurance marketplace."
Dr. Gene Lindsey, CEO of Atrius Health, added, "Our focus at Atrius Health is to give consumers the coordinated, patient-centered care they deserve and also be responsible stewards of our health care dollar. The Governor's legislation encourages us all to work together towards this same goal."
"Health care costs for municipal employees are growing at an unsustainable rate and are robbing money from our schools, public safety efforts, public works projects and other critical programs," said Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll. "The tools Governor Patrick has proposed will help cities and towns provide material and immediate savings to communities facing soaring health insurance costs and help us maintain basic city services."
Massachusetts leads the nation in the percentage of residents with health insurance, with more than 98 percent of people covered. Since passage of health care reform legislation in 2006, which served as a model for the national law, the rate of insurance coverage has increased for all income levels and among all racial and ethnic groups. As of June 2010, more than 400,000 people in Massachusetts had insurance than had previously been uninsured. The Commonwealth has achieved near universal coverage for children, with 99.8 percent insured, including 20,000 more children enrolled in MassHealth during the past year alone. While Massachusetts has shown national leadership in expanding access to health care, costs continue to be a challenge.
Governor Patrick took immediate action to address double-digit premium increases last year when he directed the Division of Insurance to reject unreasonable or excessive rate increases. Through settlements with insurers and subsequent rate filings subject to a more robust review process, this action has saved 800,000 people more than $106 million. Governor Patrick also signed legislation last year to allow for group purchasing cooperatives, select or tiered network plans and enhanced financial and rate information from carriers. In addition, the Commonwealth Health Connector has initiated a new procurement effort that seeks to achieve cost savings in Commonwealth Care - the state subsidized health plan for low-income residents - by encouraging competition and innovation among health plans, enabling it to accommodate additional membership in Fiscal Year 2012 without adding to the bottom-line cost of the program.