Massachusetts Governor's Race Focuses On National Health Question: Cost Control

The Massachusetts governor's race "is focused on the question that now confronts the nation: how to keep spiraling costs from bankrupting the experiment," The New York Times reports. "Four years ago, when Massachusetts enacted a health insurance plan that became a national template, state leaders deferred any serious discussion about controlling health care costs, with predictable results. While the law succeeded in insuring nearly all residents, the state had to raise taxes and trim benefits to preserve its essential contours. As with the new federal plan, leaders of both parties here agree that expanded coverage cannot be sustained without arresting the growth of spending. But in what may be another preview for Washington, the campaign for governor has stirred a debate over how best to do that."

Gov. Deval Patrick, D-Mass., recently "jolted the health care industry by proposing an aggressive, albeit temporary, solution. Using untapped authority, he has directed his insurance commissioner to deny proposed health insurance premiums that are deemed 'unreasonable or excessive,' starting April 1." Patrick has also "submitted a bill to allow state regulation of the fees that hospitals and doctors command from insurers. That is seen as an audacious move in a state where prestigious academic medical centers hold heavy sway over pricing." Charles D. Baker Jr., a Republican who is running against Patrick in the governor's race, "spent the last 10 years as chief executive of one of the state's largest insurers, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care." Meanwhile, "[t]his year's state budget is out of balance by $295 million, partly because of rising health costs, meaning more cuts may lie ahead" (Sack, 3/26).

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