Sustaining Massachusetts Health Insurance: The State Must Curb Health Cost

Armen Hareyan's picture

To sustain the landmark Massachusetts health insurance initiative, the state must find ways to control the climbing costs of health care, policymakers said at a May 14 forum on the first year of health care reform.

Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) said the state could save hundreds of millions of dollars by adopting several proposals being developed in the Senate. Perhaps the most controversial is to mandate that doctors and hospitals switch to electronic medical records within five years. She said this and other investments in technology would save money by "cutting through the mountain of bureaucratic paperwork and improving worker productivity."

But she declined to provide details of the proposal or how it would be funded. A pilot effort to implement electronic records in three communities is underway with a $50 million grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts. Some estimate the cost of a statewide effort at $500 million. Some specialists suggest that electronic medical records alone will not save much money, but have the potential to change medical practice over time.


Mushrooming Costs

In the proposed Senate budget, unveiled during the week of May 14, Murray said the Ways and Means Committee will include financial incentives to encourage medical students to choose primary care, funds for management of chronic diseases, and money for preventive care, all of which, she said, could help reduce health care spending.

"If we do not constrain health care costs, the system we worked so hard to create and implement will collapse," Murray said at the forum at the Kennedy Library sponsored by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, the Massachusetts Health Policy Forum, and the Massachusetts Medicaid Policy Institute.

The insurance initiative, designed to ensure most Massachusetts residents have health insurance