Massachusetts Considers Rising Costs, Insurance Hearings

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Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) on Monday met with health care industry executives to request that they address rising health care costs or potentially face new government regulations, the Boston Globe reports. During the meeting, which came in response to recent articles by the Globe's Spotlight Team about the cost of medical care, Patrick said he is considering holding hearings on health insurance premiums and hospital charges to insurers for member care. Last week, Patrick said the state Division of Insurance has the power to reject hospital rates it finds excessive.

State Inspector General Gregory Sullivan asked the attending executives to refrain from signing contracts covering patient care beyond this year so that the state has an opportunity to consider possible reforms. The executives included leaders from the state's "dominant" provider, Partners HealthCare, and its largest insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts. Partners and BCBS last summer agreed to a multiyear contract calling for annual rate increases of about 5% to 6%.


Spokespersons for both insurers on Monday said the agreement was final. However, Sullivan believes a state insurance hearing would qualify as an unforeseen circumstance and provide an opportunity to revise or suspend the deal. Sullivan said, "Other governors haven't used this power; he's telling them, 'I have this and tell me why I shouldn't use it.'"

According to Charles Baker, CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, insurance executives at the meeting said they would welcome hearings. The Globe reports that several executives said they will support a new payment reform commission that was created by legislation last year, which will examine alternative payment models in health care (Bombardieri, Boston Globe, 1/13).

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