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For Payment Reform, Lessons from the Massachusetts Experience

September 20th, 2012

As the implementation of the Affordable Care Act continues, the Massachusetts example remains instructive. A new Health Affairs Web First article published yesterday looks at the health care cost control bill passed by the Bay State’s legislature at the end of its 2012 session and signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick last month.

This is the state’s third law to address health spending since Massachusetts’s landmark health insurance coverage reforms were signed into law in 2006 by then-Gov. Mitt Romney. Although the 2012 bill lacks mechanisms to enforce new spending goals, it does create a framework for increased regulation should spending trends fail to moderate, say Health Affairs authors Robert Mechanic and Stuart Altman of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University and John McDonough of the Harvard School of Public Health.

The three authors discuss what the Massachusetts experience can teach policymakers in the federal government and in other states. “[A]fter three consecutive new laws and a strong private-sector response, there is no doubt that Massachusetts has begun to make important and difficult choices,” they conclude. “Massachusetts’s continuing experiences with these new policies will provide lessons about what is possible and what is not as the nation takes steps to contain health care costs.”

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