Massachusetts Investigating High Healthcare Costs (and Potential Solutions)

Total spending on healthcare in Massachusetts was $54 billion last year, which is an average of $8,010 per resident. Massachusetts' Gov. Charlie Baker, Attorney General Maura Healey, Senate President Stan Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert DeLeo are all scheduled to speak at a two-day hearing that will investigate the causes behind the state’s high healthcare costs. The commission plans to identify the main drivers of healthcare costs and discuss solutions to prevent such exorbitant costs. They will also consider what spending and market trends affected the state's abilities to meet its cost goals in 2014 and what will impact the state's abilities to meet its goals in 2015.

The biggest increase in healthcare spending was in MassHealth, Massachusetts' Medicaid program, where spending grew by 19%, to a total of $15.3 billion. Much of this was due to the technical failure of the state's Health Connector website, which led to the state putting more than 300,000 people on Medicaid in 2014, many of whom were not eligible. The high costs were also driven by higher drug prices, with a 13% increase in pharmacy spending over the previous year.

Investigating the causes of these enormously high costs is critical for the state. Panelists will look at ways to improve access to primary care in order to reduce emergency room use and at the use of new payment methodologies by insurers. They will also evaluate the impact of the changing landscape of healthcare providers, at ways to promote price transparency and ultimately lower cost while still providing high-quality healthcare, which is critical for all healthcare consumers. 

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