Local Battles over Health Care Costs, Quality and Coverage

Health reform is about controlling costs, improving the quality of care and expanding coverage.  Here’s  how all that is playing out in New England this week:

 Barbra Rabson, executive director of the non-profit Massachusetts Health Quality Partners offers details on a new statewide quality of care report on WBUR’s Commonhealth blog.

While MHQP is only one of many organizations in the state that is dedicated to advancing the quality and safety of health care, we have the longest track record of public reporting, so, with six years of data behind us, what can we say about the quality of patient care in Massachusetts?

 Nurses picket Tufts and BMC over staffing levels (in case you missed the full-page ad in the Globe.)

 The registered nurses of Boston Medical Center’s East Newton Campus and Tufts Medical Center, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, are taking the unprecedented step of conducting joint informational picketing outside their respective facilities on Feb. 11, 2010 to protest what they believe are dangerous changes in RN staffing levels, which will result in nurses caring for too many patients at one time and could compromise the quality of patient care.

 From the Globe: Gov wants to review increases in health care costs and premiums

 Governor Deval Patrick is seeking sweeping authority to review and reject rates charged by hospitals, physician groups, medical imaging centers, and insurers, in a broad new effort to make health care more affordable, particularly for smaller companies and their workers.

If you can pick through the foaming at the mouth comments on the story, you’ll find BIDMC head Paul Levy offering the unenthusiastic hospital point of view.

WBUR’s Commonhealth, again, gets reaction.

Both Lora Pellegrini, acting president and CEO of the MA Association of Health Plans, and Lynn Nicholas, president and CEO of the MA Hospital Association argue — not surprisingly — that the governor’s plan may not address the thorniest problems contributing to rising costs.

 

 From AP: Maine lawmakers consider lifetime coverage limits

AUGUSTA, Maine –One of the strongest supporters of a bill to prohibit health insurance companies from setting annual and lifetime limits on the amounts they will pay couldn’t be at a legislative hearing on the measure Wednesday because he has cancer and was getting a blood transfusion.

Since Richard “Rocky” D’Andrea’s cancer was discovered in 2008, the 63-year-old Limerick man also found out that his insurance policy carried a $250,000 lifetime cap, his wife Theresa told the Insurance and Financial Services Committee. Now the couple are struggling to keep their house. Their credit cards are maxed and they’ve spent all of their savings and retirement, she said.

After paying a combined 60 years in taxes and years of insurance premiums, “we are in financial ruin,” D’Andrea said. “We are asking ourselves who will answer our call for help.”

Theresa D’Andrea joined others in asking the committee to endorse a bill similar to one of the major health insurance proposals under consideration in Congress. Insurance companies say eliminating the caps will have a cost that would be reflected in higher premiums.

 

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