Mass. Gov. Patrick Signs Bill to Exert Control over Health Providers

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) has signed new legislation that some are calling the “second phase” of the health care law that was signed by Gov. Mitt Romney in 2006. A sweeping law intended to contain health care costs, it is the first of its kind in the nation in its outright assumption that government is the final authority over health care. According to the Wall St. Journal, if ObamaCare is not repealed, it is just a matter of time before Washington will also become the full-fledged arbiter of health care, rather than patients.

Dubbed a “health care cost bill,” the new legislation allows health spending in Massachusetts to grow no faster than the state’s economy through 2017. From 2017 to 2022, health spending would slow further, to half a percentage point below the growth of the economy as the state’s health system shifts to a model in which doctors and hospitals are paid for overall patient care rather than for individual tests and treatments.

Why this drastic piece of legislation?

In Massachusetts, 79% of the newly insured are now on public programs. Health care costs will amount to about 54% of the state budget in 2012, an increase from about 24% in 2001. Over the same period of time, the state’s spending on health care has gone up by 59%, as spending on education, emergency services, and infrastructure has fallen dramatically.

More from the WSJ:

Meanwhile, Massachusetts spends more per capita on health care than any other state and therefore more than anywhere else in the industrialized world. Costs are 27% higher than the U.S. average, 15% higher when adjusted for the state’s higher wages and its concentration of academic medical centers and specialists.

“We are ushering in the end of the fee-for-service care system in Massachusetts in favor of better care, at lower cost,” said Gov. Patrick, who credited Gov. Romney for launching the state on the path to universal health insurance coverage.

The new law, with its stringent rules for providers, is an end that most conservatives would have predicted for legislation that promised to cover “everyone.” The state has experienced out-of-control costs, price controls, physician shortages, etc. as a result of the mandate that all citizens have health insurance coverage. As is the case with ObamaCare, mandatory health insurance coverage does not guarantee health insurance access to care.

In Massachusetts they eventually came to the conclusion that Washington will come to if President Obama is re-elected: that the only way to rein in health costs would be to assert government control over doctors and hospitals. Forget about those greedy health insurance companies. Now, it’s time to place government’s “boot” on the neck of the providers.

Under the new law, all Massachusetts doctors, hospitals, and other providers must register with a new state bureaucracy as a condition of licensure. Yes, if you are any kind of health care provider in Massachusetts, you now belong to the state- that is, if you want to actually earn a living in your field. The new “state bureaucracy,” not unlike the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) in ObamaCare, will have a lot to say about what providers do each day as it tracks and reports their financial performance, price and cost patterns, state-sanctioned quality measures, market share, and other statistics.

As WSJ indicates:

 …Massachusetts takes 360-degree surveillance and converts it into a panopticon prison. An 11-member board known as the Health Policy Commission will use the data to set and enforce rules to ensure that total Massachusetts health spending, public and private, grows no more than projected gross state product through 2017, and 0.5 percentage points lower thereafter. (And Paul Ryan’s Medicare projections are unrealistic?)

According to the new law, no registered provider is permitted to make “any material change to its operations or governance structure,” without the commission’s approval. In addition, the commission has the authority to rewrite the terms of provider contracts with insurers as well as payment levels and methods if they are “deemed to be excessive,” to police providers who exceed benchmarks, and demand “performance improvement plans” of those providers found to be spending too much money on patient care. Providers who consistently spend above the authorized amount on patient care can be fined $500,000 for disobeying the rules of the commission, an amount that the uber-liberals of the state believe to be a mere pittance of a penalty.

It seems that those who govern in Massachusetts are betting that the high ratings of their mega-teaching hospitals- aka academia- will keep their state flooded with doctors who are dying to prostrate themselves to the new “Big Sick” governing commission. Let the left in Massachusetts rejoice, for now, at their big coup, because another failed government take-over is just around the corner.


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