Episode 150: Health care chairs vow action on price variation

The co-chairs of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Health Care Financing may be new to their posts, but both seem to grasp the urgency of tackling big issues facing the state’s health care sector and both sound optimistic about solutions to some thorny problems emerging in the current session on Beacon Hill.

That’s the takeaway from a conversation with Sen. Cindy Friedman and Rep. Jennifer Benson convened by Paul Hattis and John McDonough as part of their “Health or Consequences” interviews on The Codcast.

One of the biggest issues looming over the health care sector: the large price variation in what hospitals charge for similar services, a problem that vexed lawmakers last session, as they adjourned without reaching agreement on an approach to dealing with it.

“This is a very, very, very big issue, and it is not something that we’re going to be able to skirt if we really are going to address health care costs,” said Friedman. She said there’s a need to address issues “at both ends of that spectrum” — dealing both with the much higher costs charged by big teaching hospitals while also making sure community hospitals aren’t bringing inefficiency to the overall system by trying to add costly services already provided elsewhere.