Health care cost control bills head to
By Michael Norton
June 14, 2012 ... Uxbridge Democrat Sen. Richard Moore and Lynn Democrat Rep. Steven Walsh will lead the Senate and House negotiating teams on omnibus legislation aimed at controlling health care costs and improving the quality of patient care by deploying new payment methods and other transparency and innovation measures.
Moore and Walsh will be joined on the six-member conference committee by Sen. Anthony Petruccelli (D-East Boston), co-chair of the Financial Services Committee, House Majority Leader Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy), Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) and Rep. Jay Barrows (R-Mansfield). The negotiators were named Thursday as House and Senate members each voted to stand by their own proposals.
Moore and Walsh co-chair the Legislature’s Health Care Financing Committee, a panel that failed to forge an agreement on health care cost containment legislation after reviewing a bill file by Gov. Deval Patrick for more than a year. The committee ultimately decided to send Patrick’s bill to the Senate. Both branches subsequently developed their own heavily amended proposals (H 4155 and S 2270).
Among the many major issues the conference committee will need to resolve are whether to include a luxury assessment on high cost care providers, the target for allowable health care cost growth, the level of financial support for a new wellness and prevention fund, the size and autonomy level of government oversight agencies, and the final contours of medical malpractice system reforms.
While many of the proposals in the bill are untested on the scale that legislators envision in their proposals, lawmakers believe their bills could cut projected health care spending in Massachusetts by $150 billion to $160 billion over the next 15 years while delivering more coordinated care to patients.
According to Senate clerks, the bill was among the most difficult they've ever had to assemble, more challenging than the voluminous annual budget, due to its complexity and the volume of amendments adopted that needed to be properly inserted into the legislation before it was sent to conference.
"I think it's going to be a difficult conference committee," Tarr told the News Service last week.
Moore was the lead conferee, with former Rep. Patricia Walrath, on the conference that produced the 2006 health insurance access law signed by Gov. Mitt Romney. Mariano also served on that conference, as well as then-Ways and Means Chair Sen. Therese Murray, now the Senate president. The other 2006 conferees, former Sen. Brian Lees and former Rep. Robert Hargraves, no longer serve in the Legislature.
The conference committee will face heavy lobbying not only from lawmakers but also from industry interests hoping to position themselves or their advocacy group members for changes in the health care landscape that will be felt for years. Once conference committees agree on a proposal, their recommendation is not subject to amendment, a fact that elevates the level of power held by the relatively small group of lawmakers. Most conference committees vote to hold only private meetings and talks.
This story appears courtesy of the State House News Service (subscription required).
2270 - Senate's Payment Reform Bill
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