"Bake sales saved the nonprofit Athol Memorial Hospital the first time around, Steve Penka says with a smile. Eleven years later, it took a big Tennessee-based, for-profit hospital chain to keep it in business," the (Worcester, Mass.) Telegram & Gazette reports. In light of a recent report by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley's office, many are surprised Athol is around at all. "That report, 'Examination of Health Care Cost Trends and Cost Drivers,' has drawn little attention among the public, but has stirred nonstop discussion among health insurers, hospital administrators, doctors and others. … The quality of health care in the Bay State, ranked at or near the top by most quality measures, and access to it are not at issue. But the network of insurers, hospitals and doctors that pay for, administer and deliver that care has been rendered 'dysfunctional' and fueled spiraling costs 'that we all agree are unsustainable,' Ms. Coakley said in an interview" (Nicodemus and Whearley, 5/9).
In a follow-up, the Telegram & Gazette examines how to control health costs. "When looking for a good used car, a responsible day care center, or someone to fix your roof, it pays to shop around, ask questions, and get references. But when it comes to the cost of health care, consumers can't check the Internet for the cheapest MRI or haggle with the doctor over a fee." One approach is to give consumers a stake in making economic decisions about health services.
"Attorney General Martha Coakley and her staff concluded the first step is to strip away [provider] confidentiality agreements and allow public access to the information. She also believes the state must better regulate the health care industry and rein in price disparities, as well as reduce or eliminate the flaws that have allowed price disparities to flourish" (Nicodemus and Whearley, 5/10).