October 8, 2015 | Rosemarie Day

Top 10 Highlights from the Massachusetts Health Care Cost Trends Hearing

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Massachusetts led the nation in insuring more people and is now attempting to tackle its rising health care costs as part of this effort. To that end, the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission hosted its third annual Health Care Cost Trends Hearing this past Monday and Tuesday, addressing the recent concerning report from the Center for Health Information and Analytics (CHIA). Experts gathered for two days to discuss these results and identify strategies to address them.

Before diving into highlights from the hearings, it’s important to set the stage. Massachusetts has some of the highest health care costs in the country, and the Health Policy Commission has been working to develop strategies to combat this since being established in 2012. In 2013, Massachusetts health care spending grew by 2.4%, which was below the goal the Health Policy Commission set at 3.6% (the state’s GDP growth rate). However, the Center for Health Information and Analysis just reported in September that actual health care costs grew by 4.8% in 2014, which is well over the 3.6% goal. While some of this health care spending was presumably one-time due to the botched roll-out of the Connector, other forces are in play. (You may be wondering how much money we are actually talking about – total health care spending in Massachusetts this past year was $54 billion.)

Below are the top 10 highlights from the hearings. Click here to access more detailed information about each highlight.

1. More competition is needed to generate savings, and exchanges are a good place to start

2. 2016 will be the year of transparency

3. Provider price disparities are expected to persist

4. Payment reform, especially bundled payments, can potentially help curb spending

5. Hospital and health plan consolidation mergers need to be scrutinized

6. Varying, and sometimes extreme, prices of drugs and procedures needs to be reigned in

7. There is a critical need to understand how and why certain hospitals can operate a high quality, low cost model so that others can replicate this success

8. Coordinated and collaborative care needs to be used to address mental and behavioral health needs

9. Addiction and pain management needs to be addressed through provider education to begin reversing the opioid addiction trend

10. More data is needed to help meet benchmark goals

The hearings did not disappoint – the crowd, panelists, and hosts were lively, energetic, concerned, and thoughtful. It will be interesting to see if Massachusetts is able to make progress over the next year.

Thanks to Day Health Strategies consultant Angelique Hrycko for contributing to this blog.