Mixed Reaction To Patrick's Health Care Reform Bill

By Sarah Birnbaum

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Feb. 18, 2011

BOSTON — Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is filing a bill Thursday that aims to reduce health care spending by changing the way doctors and hospitals get paid.  Most insurers and health care providers reacting to the bill are positive, but cautious.  
  
Patrick's bill would move the state toward a so-called “global payment” system, where doctors and hospitals receive a lump sum per patient, plus bonuses for keeping the patient healthy, instead of getting paid for every office visit, test and procedure.  The governor says the change will save money, because there won’t be a financial incentive for doctors to order unnecessary and costly tests.

 Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the state’s largest health insurer, is already paying some doctors this way.  And Blue Cross CEO Andrew Dreyfus says the system is working.
  
“Quality is going up, costs are coming down, and I think as those experiences are understood, people are actually going to see – this is a better system,” Dreyfus said.
 
Dr. Alice Coombs is president of the Massachusetts Medical Society.  She says one in five Bay State doctors are already in a global payment system, but she says many other doctors are worried they won’t be able to afford new electronic health records which would be required under the new system.
 
“They want to know what do I need in order to do this? They need the bells and whistles, the infrastructure, if you will, the electronic medical records and those things… it takes capital to get there," Coombs said.

Health care providers and insurers say the way forward will be complicated. Earlier this week, the state’s largest union representing healthcare workers recommended that changes to the payment system should be made gradually.

Health care advocacy groups, however, have urged lawmakers to act quickly, saying the recession has led to a jump in the number of people struggling to pay health care premiums.

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