March 12, 2014

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View Mr. Seltz's slides from the event

Eight years after creating near-universal coverage, Massachusetts continues to lead the nation on health care reform. Comprehensive cost containment legislation passed in 2012 aims to align health care spending growth with the overall state economy. Among its many provisions, the new law assesses certain providers and payers in order to make investments in community hospitals throughout Massachusetts. The law also increases transparency and accountability in the provider market, and encourages payers and providers to move away from fee-for-service toward alternative payment arrangements. The newly established Health Policy Commission is an independent state agency responsible for implementing many of these initiatives.

In his presentation, Seltz covered the key ingredients that enabled passing the health care cost containment law, including the driving forces of political leadership, as well the economic impetus for the law. With Massachusetts’ health care costs “growing at an unsustainable rate”—a 60% increase in a decade—Seltz remarked that health care costs were “pushing out growth in all other sectors of our economy.” This brought the state’s political leaders together to consider how to make Massachusetts competitive in the long-term and increase jobs in all sectors, not just health care.

One important component of the Massachusetts cost containment law was setting the growth benchmark, to stabilize health care costs to match the growth in the overall state economy. Seltz acknowledged that “ours is a market-focused law,” but one that also understands “government is going to play a role at holding the industry accountable towards meeting these goals, as well as monitoring and helping to guide the transformation over time.”

To help implement some of the law’s key initiatives, two state agencies were set up: the Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA), the state’s data and analytics hub, and the Health Policy Commission (HPC), focused on developing policies. Seltz explained that the responsibilities of the Commission are to promote transformation in care through patient-centered medical homes (PCMHs) and accountable care organizations (ACOs), to make strategic investments in community hospitals, monitor the system and cost trends, and examine changes in the health care provider marketplace.

Attendees at the event included representatives of health care plans, providers, consumers, researchers, New York State government officials, and funders. Although the Commission is relatively new, Seltz revealed some preliminary results from first annual cost trends report and shared opportunities to improve the Massachusetts health care system. Seltz concluded by discussing the key challenges that the Commission will need to tackle in upcoming years to create a more transparent, accountable health care system that ensures quality, affordable health care for Massachusetts residents.

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