This afternoon, Governor Patrick signed into law the comprehensive health care cost and quality legislation (press release). This follows Thursday’s signing of the supplemental appropriations bill, which included the revenue measures to meet the MassHealth and Commonwealth Care funding gaps for this fiscal year.
HCFA is deeply grateful to the Governor, Senate and House’s leadership on these issues. In the administration, Secretaries Bigby and Kirwan, and DPH Commissioner Auerbach were determined to make continued real progress in health care. In the legislature, Senate President Murray initiated the ground-breaking cost control legislation, and Speaker DiMasi and the House followed with a comprehensive bill that enhanced the Senate version. Joint Health Care Financing chairs Sen. Richard Moore and Rep. Patricia Walrath worked above and beyond on both bills, as did the two Ways and Means Committees. All of these leaders deserve a huge round of applause for their outstanding work.
In signing the bills, Governor Patrick, Speaker DiMasi and Senate President Murray affirmed their commitment to extending the historic chapter 58 health care reform. This year, the Commonwealth faced a stark decision: would we go forward or backward on health? To go forward, we needed to take bold action on costs, as well as assure sufficient funds to enroll all eligible people into coverage. There was no option to stay in place; failure to enact these bills would have meant a real retreat.
On the cost bill, the attention was overly-focused on drug and device industry marketing reforms. We were proud of the MPRC‘s work to mobilize against the distortions of the industry. For example, last week over 7000 AARP members called the Governor to urge him to sign the bill; hundreds more sent emails. We couldn’t match the full-page ad screeds, but more than made that up with reasoned explanation and truth-telling.
But this attention shouldn’t lead us to ignore the many other provisions in the bill, from an e-health program that preserves consumer confidence to significant primary care enhancements to a directive to find a way to fundamentally restructure the payment system to promote health, rather than high-cost treatments. The statute truly is Health Reform II, and will undoubtedly be followed by further refinements in the future.
The bill also recognizes the inherent links between cost and quality. The HCFA-sponsored Consumer Health Quality Council achieved a number important victories, including infection reporting and hospital care improvements through patient and family councils and rapid response methods.
The hard work of regulatory implementation comes next. We expect DHCFP to soon examine its “fair and reasonable” definition for the employer Fair Share assessment. DPH and the Quality and Cost Council will have many critical new responsibilities in the coming months. We’re confident that these decisions will be made in the public interest, rejecting the special interest pleadings of industry that never likes any change.