John Polanowicz

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Mass. HHS Secretary Polanowicz On Cutting Health Costs, And More

Governor Patrick swearing in John Polanowicz as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Governor’s Council Chambers at the State House on Tuesday, January 22, 2013. (Photo: Eric Haynes / Governor’s Office)

Governor Patrick swearing in John Polanowicz on Jan. 22, 2013. (Photo: Eric Haynes/Governor’s Office)

John Polanowicz, the Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services, joined WBUR’s Meghna Chakrabarti on Radio Boston yesterday to discuss medical marijuana, the high cost of care in the Commonwealth, and more. Here’s a snippet on costs:

Meghna’s question, lightly distilled: Before your current posting, you were the president of St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center — the biggest hospital in the Steward Health Care System, which has been pretty aggressive in trying to reduce costs. Massachusetts has academic medical centers that are gems in terms of medical research and care, but those top-tier hospitals tend to say that their prices need to be higher to support research, or care for those who can’t pay. What do you tell them?

Polanowicz, excerpted:

We are one of the few states where we’re a little upside down in terms of where care is actually being sought. The vast majority of individuals in other states are not running to their academic medical centers for primary and secondary care. Absolutely going there for tertiary care and for some of the advances and frankly programs that we, as a Commonwealth, should be very proud of, that we have them here in Massachusetts.

I think that part of the issue is, and what I would say is, we have a lot of duplication of programs.  We have programs even within some systems, the same program almost across the street from each other…

I’ve said this to many of my former CEO colleagues: No one is going to want to pay us more for the things we are doing today, so we have to figure out ways to provide the care less expensively. Whether that’s through technologies, through reduction of testing, through reduction of waste.
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Major Turnover In Patrick Cabinet Expected; St. Elizabeth’s Chief To Lead Health

Dr. JudyAnn Bigby

Dr. JudyAnn Bigby

The Boston Globe broke the news late yesterday that Gov. Deval Patrick will announce replacements today for several top administration figures, including Health and Human Services secretary JudyAnn Bigby, finance chief Jay Gonzalez and public safety head Mary Beth Heffernan.

An administration source tells WBUR that the replacements include:

• Suffolk Sheriff Andrea Cabral as public safety secretary.

• The president of St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, John Polanowicz, as health and human services secretary.

• Glen Shor, current head of the Massachusetts Health Connector, as head of Administration and Finance.

'Connector' Chief Glen Shor

‘Connector’ Chief Glen Shor

An administration official says: “This is a natural transition time and we expect some change in the administration. The Governor asked all of his Secretaries for a two year commitment at the start of the second term and has asked them for a similar commitment now.”

The Globe notes that the outgoing secretaries have both earned praise and been “dogged by controversies,” including: Continue reading