Health Policy Commission to analyze nurse question

With voters confused, agency will assess costs, benefits of ballot measure

UNDER PRESSURE TO EXAMINE a nurse staffing ballot question, the state Health Policy Commission on Monday announced that it plans to present findings on cost impacts of mandated staffing ratios on hospitals and non-hospital settings that employ registered nurses as well as “the Commonwealth as a whole.”

A commission official disclosed Monday that the panel began its exploration of Question 1 in mid-August and the commission plans to present its new analysis during a subcommittee meeting on Oct. 3. The full commission plans to discuss the analysis results during hearings on health care cost trends Oct. 16-17 at Suffolk University Law School.

The commission examined “California’s experience with a mandated nurse staffing ratio law, the Commonwealth’s current RN workforce and staffing at Massachusetts hospitals, and estimated costs associated with mandated ratios.”

Industry insiders, as well as House Minority Leader Brad Jones, have been calling on the commission to analyze Question 1, saying the independent agency could inform voters who have been hit with widely varying estimates of the cost of the proposal, if implemented. Nurses behind Question 1 have emphasized the proposal’s positive impact on patient care.

In a statement Monday, Health Policy Commission Chairman Stuart Altman said the HPC’s analysis “is consistent with the HPC’s role as an independent watchdog of health care costs, quality and access in the state.”

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The News Service inquired about an HPC Question 1 analysis in June. An agency spokesman said then that the commission had not conducted a review and would have no further comment, but planned to offer an update if anything changed.

The HPC began to develop its analysis on mandated nurse-to-patient staffing ratios in August 2018, agency spokesman Matt Kitsos said Monday, hiring consultant Dr. Joanne Spetz from the University of California-San Francisco on Aug. 14.