Mass. House Begins Debate On Sprawling Health Cost-Cutting Plan

State Rep. Steve Walsh introduces the new payment reform bill today as debate gets underway in the House

Debate is now underway in the Massachusetts House on the health care cost-cutting bill, a sprawling proposal to save $150 billion over 15 years by re-focusing medical care on prevention, changing the incentives and methods for paying doctors and hospitals, linking health-care spending to the state economy, and more. Debate is expected to run through today and pick up again tomorrow.

Introducing the bill this afternoon, Lynn Rep. Steven Walsh, the House chair of the Committee on Health Care Financing, tried to reassure those fearful that the plan could undermine the medical industry’s ability to provide top-notch care. Walsh said the bill won’t hurt the state’s premier health care industry which, he said, recently cared for his baby and “saved my son’s life.”

For those watching at home, here’s a handy guide to the flurry of amendments filed, put together by Joshua Archambault, of the Pioneer Institute. He writes:

275 amendments have been filed, and legislators appear to be more focused on social policy, labor policy, and special-interest carve outs than health delivery and payment reform. Some of the more colorful amendments consist of:
Social Policy: Studying sex ed in charter schools.(#30) 4 amendments dealing with family planning (#32, 139, 264, 265), removing ultrasound diagnostic imaging from the definition of an advanced diagnostic imaging service (#179), and health care equity (#217).

Labor Appointments: There are 5 amendments giving appointments to the Massachusetts Nurses Association (#11, 42, 63, 86, 91), and 6 for AFL-CIO (#44, 137, 242, 244, 245, 246).

Special Interests: Too many to mention, but examples such as podiatry (#64), numerous groups added to loan repayment program including: nurses, those providing rehabilitative services such as physical therapy, occupational therapy and prosthetics and orthotics, rural primary care sites, community based behavioral health organizations. Amendment #71 would allow ACOs to be exempt from a major surcharge.

4 New Mandates: Annual cytologic screenings (#162), acupuncture (#175), hearing aids for kids of state employees in GIC, or all individual policies plus all related services(#243), amino acid-based elemental formulas (#248)
Soda Tax, (#267)

Unpopular Section 66: 6 amendments to change section 66 of the bill, which includes provisions to force providers to have a firewall between hospitals when negotiating with insurers.

We’ll keep you updated as things progress.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.