STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

THE AVERAGE TOTAL Massachusetts family health insurance premium costs roughly tripled from 2000 to 2019, reaching $ 21,424 and exceeding the national cost of a new compact car.

The statistic was part of several data illustrating the rising costs and burdens of healthcare for consumers presented at a conference on Wednesday. Meeting of the Health Policy Commission, where board members have expressed interest in adding more bite to existing government cost-growth accountability measures.

The Health Policy Commission was created under a 2012 law that aimed to curb the growth in health care costs. The same law established a benchmark against which annual growth in medical spending is measured.

“I have a feeling that what has happened over the last couple of years is that the vendor community in particular is saying, ‘Oh, we’re just being watched, so it’s not that big of a deal.’ “said David Cutler, member of the commission. “And it became a game, like how to beat the HPC – stay in whatever you need to stay, but you would beat the HPC and the state, and that, to me, seems to violate the rules of the game and violating the rules that the state has implicitly agreed with the private sector.

David Auerbach, director of research at HPC, told the commission that growth in healthcare spending has accelerated over the past two years and surpassed the 3.1% mark in 2018 (3.6%) and 2019 (4.3%).

Annual spending growth averaged 3.59% between 2012 and 2019, and the increase fell below a benchmark of 3.6% in 2013, 2016 and 2017.

The state does not face any formal consequences for exceeding the benchmark, other than increased attention to rising costs. Suppliers and payers deemed to exhibit excessive cost growth may be subject to additional CHP oversight, including a possible requirement that they put in place a performance improvement plan.

“I think the whole system did a good job in the first few years after 224 was passed in 2012,” said HPC chairman Stuart Altman, referring to the Limitation Act. costs. “The game is getting harder now and what we recommend is that the process should get harder as well.”

As the CHP prepares its annual report on health care cost trends, the committee on Wednesday considered a list of 10 proposed policy recommendations aimed at tackling the factors driving spending growth.

HPC executive director David Seltz said the recommendations include strengthening “mechanisms to hold healthcare entities accountable for spending growth,” setting measurable goals on healthcare accessibility and “taking into account supplier caps on very high prices, as well as limiting price growth over time. “

Much of the CHP discussion revolved around the idea of ​​increased accountability.

“I think the overall conclusion that the current regime is failing to control costs in the Commonwealth is a conclusion we should be very explicit about,” said Don Berwick, commissioner.

Referring to Cutler’s remarks, Berwick said: “There are no consequences for this failure yet, and unless the legislature chooses to create consequences, I am not predicting that the future will be much better, very different from the past. “

Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said she “might not be as cynical as some of my colleagues” and described the 2012 law as “very good legislation when it came down to it. produced “.

“We’re in a different place and time, and it’s time for us to think about it,” she said.

Sudders said a healthcare bill tabled by Gov. Charlie Baker in October 2019 aimed to strengthen the accountability of entities that go beyond the benchmark.

Lora Pellegrini, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, praised all of the HPC’s 10 recommendations after the meeting, calling them “robust.”

“Persistent increases in the prices charged by physicians, hospitals and other providers, coupled with unjustified prices for specialty, branded and generic drugs, will continue to threaten the state’s cost growth benchmark and create problems. accessibility for employers and consumers, ”she said in a statement. “Many of the recommendations offered by the HPC strengthen the state’s accountability framework for healthcare, hold all entities accountable for rising healthcare costs, and target persistent cost drivers with new interventions designed to bend the cost curve. “

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