Devaux says Health Policy Commission needs more power
For some time, the Health Policy Commission has been urging lawmakers to increase the powers of the agency so it can better rein in rising hospital costs.
Deborah Devaux, the new chair of the agency, is voicing the same message but with a bit more urgency. In an interview on CommonWealth’s Health or Consequences podcast with John McDonough of the T.F. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University and Paul Hattis of the Lown Institute, Devaux said it’s time for action.
“I believe the powers need to be changed and strengthened,” she said. “We need to consider new approaches because the challenges and issues have changed over the last 10 years, and accelerated in the last three years.”
A top concern is that half of all patients report deferring medical care because of the high cost, she said.
The consensus on the commission is that the cost growth benchmark needs more muscle behind it. Devaux said the commission needs the power to dole out financial penalties for organizations that repeatedly exceed the benchmark.
“We hope we never have to apply those penalties, but they serve as an important factor in the focus on cost,” she said.
Devaux said the state needs to gather data on the drugs contributing the most to cost growth and the ability to set target pricing for those drugs. And she said health insurers need more regulatory attention, suggesting the commission should set targets and standards for premiums and cost sharing.
Devaux also said the commission needs more control over the issuance of performance improvement plans. Performance improvement plans are currently the commission’s primary enforcement mechanism for holding health care payers and providers accountable for spending in excess of the health cost benchmark.
For the first time in its 10 years in existence, the commission in January ordered Mass General Brigham to develop a performance improvement plan. It took nine months for the commission and the state’s largest hospital system to come to agreement on a plan to rein in costs by roughly $128 million a year.
“We have really appreciated the responsiveness and commitment of MGB through the performance improvement plan,” Devaux said. “I was very respectful of how MGB came to the table.”
Hodgson gets support from Baker-linked super PAC: A super PAC with close ties to Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday reported spending $294,000 on behalf of 33 candidates, with the biggest chunk of money ($32,125) going to support Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, one of former president Donald Trump’s biggest supporters in Massachusetts.
– The Massachusetts Majority PAC also spent significant amounts on behalf of three Republicans challenging Democrats in the Senate. The PAC spent $23,312 on behalf of William E. Johnson of Granby, who is challenging Democrat Rep. Jacob Oliveira of Ludlow for the Senate seat being vacated by Eric Lesser; $20,995 on behalf of Edward F. Dombrowski Jr., of Wakefield, who is challenging incumbent Sen. Jason Lewis of Winchester; and $20,176 on behalf of Rep. Shawn Dooley of Norfolk, who is challenging incumbent Sen. Becca Rausch of Needham. Read more.
Out of control: Peter Pitts of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest says a poorly regulated drug pricing program is padding the profits of hospitals and spiraling out of control. Read more.
Yes on 4: Gladys Vega of Collaborativa and Bob Hildreth of La Vida Scholars urge a yes vote on Question 4 for fairness and safety reasons. Read more.
Gig questions not going away: Charles Chieppo of the Pioneer Institute says voters dodged a bullet when the Supreme Judicial Court shot down a ballot question on gig workers, but now the Legislature will have to decide the issues at stake without much solid information to go on. Read more.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
A group of Weymouth residents are calling for an 18-month moratorium on new construction of buildings with three or more units, citing strain on the water supply. (Patriot Ledger)
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tests positive for COVID-19. (CNN)
More than 1.1 million mail-in ballots were requested in advance of the general election, but Secretary Bill Galvin says the election appears to be “low-intensity” for now. (Salem News)
Republican gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl kicks off the final stretch of his campaign with a Shrewsbury event where he criticizes Maura Healey for supporting mask and vaccine mandates. (Telegram & Gazette)
The Globe urges a “yes” vote on Question 2, which would require that at least 83 percent of dental premium payments be spent on clinical care.
Anti-tax forces fighting Question 1 lack big-name voices that were present in earlier fights against a graduated income tax, with the one figure who might have some sway, Gov. Charlie Baker, staying on the sidelines in the ballot question fight. (Boston Globe)
On the South Shore, incumbent Democratic state senators John Keenan and Walter Timilty, and Republican Patrick O’Connor are all facing challengers. (Patriot Ledger) The region’s three members of Congress – Democrats Ayanna Pressley, William Keating, and Stephen Lynch also all have Republican opponents. (Patriot Ledger)
Bristol County sheriff Thomas Hodgson decries “dirty tricks” after someone created a fake Twitter account purported to represent the city of New Bedford and made a comment about Hodgson. (Standard-Times)
State auditor candidate Anthony Amore, who is trying to burnish his image as a more moderate Baker-style Republican, says he regrets his past support for Donald Trump. (Boston Herald)
The scores of Massachusetts students on a national math and reading exam plummeted during the pandemic. (WBUR)
Some communities are experimenting with approaches to cut down heat absorption by roadways, which can be a major problem in the summer months. (WBUR)
Mass Humanities honored four with its Governor’s Award in the Humanities. The winners were Fredric Ruterg, the publisher of the Berkshire Eagle; Frances Jones-Sneed, professor of history and former director of Women’s Studies at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams; Barbara Lee, a Cambridge-based philanthropist; and Callie Crossley, a journalist and television producer at WGBH in Boston. (Berkshire Eagle)
PASSINGSDaniel M. Walsh III, a former Marine, city councilor and veterans services director for the city of Springfield, dies. (MassLive)
Allen Frotten, who was raised in foster care and went on to a 32-year career with the Boston Police, dies at 86. (Patriot Ledger)