Can Massachusetts reign in health care costs?

While many health care reform experts are confident that the Massachusetts State Legislature by end of summer will pass a law intended to cut health care costs by $150 billion in 15 years, HSPH’s John McDonough and Nancy Turnbull are among the health policy experts concerned about whether the bill will deliver the promised cost reductions.

“I’m not optimistic about [the legislature’s] ability to deal with cost,” Turnbull, associate dean for educational programs and a senior lecturer in health policy, said in a Washington Post “WonkBlog” post published May 30, 2012. The Massachusetts Senate and House have unveiled separate plans to control health costs in the state. While the proposals share common ground in overhauling how doctors, hospitals, and other providers are paid, the House bill calls for creating a new, quasi-independent authority to carry out certain functions.

“What they’re creating is a mechanism to blow the whistle on health-care costs,” McDonough, professor of the practice of public health and director of HSPH’s Center for Public Health Leadership, said of the new government agency proposed under the House plan. “Then you hope that the whistle actually gets blown when the time comes.”

Even if costs aren’t reduced, McDonough says the legislation is worth pursuing because it signals that cost control matters in Massachusetts. The former Massachusetts state legislator and executive director of the advocacy group Health Care for All, worked as a senior adviser on the U.S. Senate committee responsible for developing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the landmark health care reform plan that President Barack Obama signed into law in March 2010.

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For additional recent comments by Turnbull and McDonough on efforts to contain Massachusetts health costs, read these articles:

“Health cost issue divides former allies in Mass.,” The Boston Globe, May 29, 2012

“How can Obamacare succeed? Romneycare offers a few clues”, The Washington Post, May 23, 2012

“Who’s afraid of the mandate,” The New Republic, May 22, 2012

 “The state senate shows its hand – game on,”  Boston Globe Health Stew blog, May 10, 2012