Jim’s Take

Mass Health Cost Trends Discouraging

On the Associated Industries of Mass (AIM) website blog, there are comments by Attorney General Maura Healey .

What's happening, according to Healey, is that more and more patients are choosing to move to higher cost physicians and hospitals despite the introduction of tiered networks to combat the costs. Healey said, "Not enough has changed and it certainly has not changed fast enough."

Part of the problem is that the high-powered provider organizations, e.g. Partners Health Care, have such an oligopoly that they are able to charge prices that exceed what would be considered a reasonable amount when compared with their peers from "lesser" providers. The AIM blog states that the "report finds that widely disparate prices paid to medical providers - differences unexplained by provider quality - have created a market in which patients continue to utilize higher cost providers, driving up health care costs." [Emphasis added]

The Attorney General's report suggests implementing incentives for more efficient providers to grow and reducing the incentives for inefficient (i.e. expensive) providers. Meh. How does letting the cheap guy charge more lower costs? Got me. But apparently, in the otherworldly universe that government officials inhabit it makes sense.

More ominously, her report also suggests "different ways of monitoring and understanding disparities in health care resources, whether that be directly regulating variation in provider prices or tracking income/health adjusted status by zip code"

Call me naive, but that sounds suspiciously like government price controls. I challenge any reader to show me an occasion where that EVER did anything except create a black market.

Why not just let carriers and employers come up with their own fixes and keep the government out of it? I couldn't work any worse than the current system. But of course, suggesting that to a government-first-last-and-always professional politician like Healey is a waste of breath.

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