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October, 12th 2009

Rationing in Massachusetts?

– Liz Mair

Quelle surprise, it might be on the cards.  Ed Morrissey writes about choice containment.

The Massachusetts adventure in health-care reform will take an entirely predictable turn in the near future, say providers within the network.  The state panel intends to dictate a narrower network of providers for some insurance plans, which providers insist will result in a reduction of services to patients in hospitals and clinics.  Massachusetts wants its citizens to choose second-tier hospitals and clinics to save costs, and plans to eliminate choice as a means to that end (via Instapundit):

The state’s ambitious plan to shake up how providers are paid could have a hidden price for patients: Controlling Massachusetts’ soaring medical costs, many health care leaders believe, may require residents to give up their nearly unlimited freedom to go to any hospital and specialist they want.

Efforts to keep patients in a defined provider network, or direct them to lower-cost hospitals could be unpopular, especially in a state where more than 40 percent of hospital care is provided in expensive academic medical centers and where many insurance policies allow patients access to large numbers of providers.

But a growing number of hospital officials and physician lead ers warn that the new payment system proposed by a state commission would not work without restrictions on where patients receive care - an issue some providers say the commission and the Patrick administration have glossed over.

“You can’t reap these savings without limiting patients’ choices in some way,’’ said Paul Levy, chief executive of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “It’s a huge issue, it’s huge.’’ Dr. James Mongan, president of Partners HealthCare, a Beth Israel Deaconess competitor, agreed that it wouldn’t “work without some restriction on choice.’’

This, in addition to a plethora of other problems beleaguering Massachusetts' system, seems like the kind of thing that would be worth bearing in mind as the possibility of the Baucus bill being voted on increases.  I daresay this was fairly predictable for a lot of folks paying attention when Massachusetts decided to go in this direction, also (ahem, Mitt Romney). [intro]

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