Governor Deval Patrick today called upon employers, government and health care providers to collaborate on a solution to the health cost crisis that threatens the commonwealth’s economic future.
Speaking to more than 600 business leaders at the AIM Annual Meeting in Waltham, the governor said that a consensus is emerging that well-integrated and carefully managed medical care equates to lower cost. He said the reform bill he filed in February to change the manner in which businesses and consumers pay for health care will replace with the current fragmented, fee-for-service system with one that will encourage different kinds of behaviors in the delivery of care.
“I meet many small business owners who are beginning to see their commercial activity pick up and are ready to start hiring again – until they get their annual health insurance hike,” Patrick said.
“Double digit increases send you scrambling to find new carriers, with less coverage at the same price or the same coverage with higher deductibles, in an annual ring-around-the-rosy of shifting plans. I have yet to meet a business owner in the state, especially a small business owner, who doesn’t see health care costs as a major roadblock to adding jobs.”
The governor’s comments punctuated a meeting dominated by the issue of spiraling health care costs and their effect on economic growth. The gathering included a discussion among national health cost experts who expressed optimism that the marketplace is already adjusting to the demand to moderate the cost of medical care.
Patrick said the ability of Massachusetts to lead the nation in solving the health cost crisis will depend upon a collaborative outlook that is does not always come easily to the Bay State.
“None of the challenges in our communities will be solved by government alone, business alone or universities alone. Working together is how we have become the international hub for the life sciences and biotech, the national hub for green tech, and the regional hub for precision manufacturing,” he said.
“We have to practice our ability to look outward, not just inward, to build partnerships with those outside our own expertise, our own economic strata, and our own neighborhood.”
The panel on health care costs agreed that doctors, hospitals and insurers in Massachusetts are moving aggressively to change the financial model of health care in a way that will reduce expenditures.
They also agreed that the ultimate success of those changes will depend upon the ability of employers and citizens to evaluate the cost and quality of their health care in the way they do for cars and other purchases.
“We’re going to see accountable-care Nirvana over the next couple of years,” said John Halamka, Chief Information Officer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, referring to the developing system of paying doctors for results rather than tests.
Andrew Dreyfus, President and Chief Executive Officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, said the company’s new contracts, which help subscribers identify high-value medical providers, are already lowering premiums.
“It’s really changing the way people look at medical care,” Dreyfus told the audience.
Panelists said wellness, prevention and education are they key tools that employers are using to control their health costs.
Douglas Rosenfeld, Vice President of Global Human Resources for Analogic Corporation, said his company pays the equivalent of the minimum wage to provide health insurance to its Massachusetts, He said employers need better information about the return on investment with wellness programs.