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Massachusetts Health Care Bill: Signed, Sealed, Now Deliver

With the signing of new Massachusetts healthcare cost containment legislation on August 6th, Governor Deval Patrick and the state legislature have finally made good on their promise of comprehensive healthcare reform.  As we know, the first phase of Massachusetts’ landmark healthcare reform legislation, passed in 2006, was to ensure that every resident in the state would be able to obtain healthcare coverage. The state has been quite successful in that endeavor in that 98% of residents now have access.  But since that legislation was enacted, the missing, elusive piece has been how best to address the rising cost of healthcare.  The new cost containment legislation starts us on the journey towards reining in the state’s healthcare costs, which are among the highest in the country The bill is signed and sealed and now it’s time to deliver.

The new legislation emphasizes transitioning the healthcare system from one that pays providers based on volume to one that incentivizes them to better coordinate a patient’s care, particularly by:

  • Avoiding costly hospital readmissions,
  • Keeping patients healthy through preventive and wellness services, and
  • Ensuring that patients receive only the care they need and want 

By encouraging and certifying Patient-Centered Medical Homes and Accountable Care Organizations, the Massachusetts legislation moves us one step closer to the triple aim goal of better coordination of care, improved health, and lower costs. Importantly, a key component of medical home and accountable care organization recognition in the bill is Shared Decision Making. The inclusion of Shared Decision Making in this first-in-the-nation legislation is recognition that Shared Decision Making does benefit patients and can be effectively deployed in clinical settings.

If the state of American healthcare is to improve, patients must be informed and involved in their treatment choices to maximize appropriate treatment selection, expected outcomes, and patient satisfaction.  As a Boston-based organization, we look forward to working with the State Commission on Health Policy, Governor Patrick, and associated stakeholders to deliver what is now law. This historic bill will map out that elusive next step of bringing costs down, and will do so in part through patient education.

Helping patients get the care they want and no more, and the care they need and no less, will be critical to creating equilibrium across quality, cost, and access and delivering on the healthcare of tomorrow.

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