The Health Policy Commission’s cost trends hearing held on Monday and Tuesday delivered, as usual, lots of data and testimony on the state of the state’s healthcare system. As part of the HPC’s conversation, the commonwealth’s two leading legislators delivered remarks about plans for further changes that the House and Senate are currently considering.
The state Senate has been engaged in a year-long process to craft a healthcare bill that its leaders say will be debated before the legislature’s adjournment on full formal sessions on November 15. Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst) said at the hearing on Monday that legislation that the Senate will release in a matter of weeks would include: some of the recommendations of the provider price variation commission; some MassHealth reforms based, in part, on the proposals that Governor Baker issued last July as part of his MassHealth package; provisions to reduce hospital readmissions and unnecessary emergency room usage; provisions to address prescription drug costs and improve access to behavioral health; and commercial market reforms designed to support “high-value” providers.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop), in his remarks to the HPC, indicated that the House is currently examining consumer information and engagement ideas, adding that CHIA’s new website may be helpful in that regard.
“We’re also excited about the potential for telemedicine and we’re thinking about how innovation can help us balance costs with quality”, DeLeo said.
DeLeo focused a significant amount of his remarks to the issue of addressing behavioral health, a personal priority of his, noting that more than 60% of hospitalized Medicaid patients have a behavioral health condition and that high-cost patients are more than three times more likely to have a behavioral health co-morbidity.
The State House News Service quoted DeLeo after the hearing as saying he wants to ensure that “the most vulnerable citizens among us” are not hurt by whatever plan the legislature creates. “Massachusetts is known for having the finest medical institutions in the country, if not the world," he added. "The other concern I have is [to ensure] that some of the wonderful research and development that's going on in our fine institutions is not hindered as well.”