Massachusetts Senate Passes Bill To Reduce Health Spending By $150 Billion

One major goal of the Affordable Care Act is to slow the growth in health care spending without compromising on the quality of care. So far, it seems to have done that, bringing projected Medicare costs down by nearly $70 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Now, spurred on by Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA), the state that created the blueprint for Obamacare is following its lead.

Last night, the Massachusetts Senate passed a bill projected to trim $150 billion off state medical costs over 15 years. As the Boston Herald reported, health care spending currently consumes about 40 percent of the state budget and is expected to double by 2020. This legislation, passed by an overwhelming 35-2 vote, aims to reduce that burden by changing the way medical professionals care for patients and taking steps to keep Massachusetts residents healthier:

The bill, which was debated over two days in the Senate and required the consideration of 265 amendments, would seek to limit health care cost growth to a level at or slightly above overall state economic growth.

It aims to achieve that goal by encouraging hospitals and doctors to adopt new care delivery and payment models focused on patient outcomes rather than quantity of care provided, and would transition state-funded health care programs away from fee-for-service to alternative payment systems by 2014.

The Senate has also proposed to invest $100 million over the next five years in a transition to electronic medical records, and another $100 million in wellness and prevention programs paid for with an assessment on insurers.

Celebrating the vote, Senate President Therese Murray said Massachusetts “[o]nce again” leads the U.S. on health care. Moving medical records to an electronic format is expected to reduce administrative expenses, while prevention initiatives could cut health care costs by potentially billions of dollars, reducing the burden on taxpayers without negatively impacting care. A study released last year, meanwhile, found that doctors will improve the quality of care if their performance is tracked.

Leaders in the Massachusetts House have their own version of this bill that differs from the Senate version, including a luxury tax on some high-cost hospitals featured in the House version, which Murray said she would not support. An architect of the bill, Sen. Richard Moore (D), said he hoped “the bulk” of the bill would ultimately become law.

Zachary Bernstein