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Health experts at Regis College discuss past, present, and future of Massachusetts and federal health care reformMarch 31, 2014
From left to right: Stuart Altman, PhD; Toni Hays, PhD, RN; Jeanette Clough, MS, RN
Massachusetts led the way in expanding access to health coverage, but it is losing the battle to control costs. This hard truth was laid bare by a panel of experts at last week’s Regis College panel on the Affordable Care Act and the Massachusetts Health Reform law.
“We are beginning to lose the ability to fund the system,” said Stuart Altman, PhD, Professor of Health Policy and Management at Brandeis University in Waltham and Chair of the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission Board. Altman has been a pivotal player in health reform for decades. “The pressure is on,” continued Altman, “to expand the role of nurse practitioners and to ensure transparency in reporting.”
In the long run, the very success of expanded coverage will depend on moderating cost growth. According to Brian Rosman, JD, Research Director at Health Care for All in Boston, “The Massachusetts goal is to keep health care cost growing less than 3.6% for total medical spending.” To do this, we need consumer web sites and 800 numbers for consumer transparency so citizens know the actual price of all medical treatments and series.
Massachusetts created the state law in 2006, expanding coverage to more than 97 percent of citizens covered. The state law included the establishment of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority, a web site that acts as a clearinghouse for insurance plans and payments. Among other roles, the Connector acts as an insurance broker to offer free, highly subsidized, and full-price private insurance plans to residents.
There were bumps in the road when the Massachusetts program was rolled out due to IT system failures, and more recently the federal system experienced web site difficulties, frustrating people’s ability to enroll. In both cases, the functionality of being able to take members’ information and determine eligibility was not delivered, and the market suffered. The commonwealth had to step in with manpower to extend coverage and help with case management.
Jean Yang, MBA, Executive Director of the Health Connector, said that she “feels confident that we’ll get it right pretty soon since technology problems can be fixed, and this market really wants it to work.”
According to Mt. Auburn Hospital President and CEO, Jeannette Clough, “Hospitals are expecting large budget cuts.” Clough emphasized the importance of quality of patient care being the most important goal.
Antoinette Hays, PhD, RN, President of Regis College, moderated the panel of experts. The topic attracted more than 300 attendees including nurses, social workers, nursing students and faculty from the College and other universities as well as local citizens.
Natick resident and Registered Nurse Sandra Mathis attends the Regis President’s Health Lecture Series regularly for the free CEU’s and because she finds the expert panels very informative.
The Regis College President’s Lecture Series on Health was established in 2007 by former President Mary Jane England, MD, in partnership with Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. The unique series of lectures designed to challenge the community to develop new skills to build awareness of contemporary health and wellness issues and learn to effect positive change. The second spring 2014 event will be held on April 23 and will explore new developments in the treatment of diabetes.
The panels are free and open to the public. Pre-registration by the Friday prior to each event is available, and preferred, for nurses and social workers who wish to earn free contact hours. The series is hosted in partnership with Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. For more information, call 781-768-7120, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Regis College is located at 235 Wellesley St., Weston.