Health Policy Commission versus Partners

Lots of amazing research and care happens at Partners Healthcare, and we pay a bonus for it.

Or, as  Boston Globe writer   puts it “Partners has long been criticized for using its power in the health care market to extract higher payments from insurers and driving up health care costs.”

But, Partners faces scrutiny from the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission, a panel that includes some health care heavyweights and a team of data analysts who are tracking cost and utilization in the state.  

McCluskey reports in today’s paper: 

Partners HealthCare’s expansion plans suffered a setback Wednesday after a state watchdog agency warned that health care costs for consumers would rise significantly if Partners is allowed to acquire the specialty hospital Massachusetts Eye and Ear.

The Health Policy Commission said Partners, the state’s largest health care network, is likely to seek higher reimbursements for care by Mass. Eye and Ear and its doctors if the deal goes through. Because Partners is already a high-priced network, the deal would increase health care spending statewide by $20.8 million to $61.2 million a year, according to the commission.

“These spending increases would ultimately be borne by consumers and businesses through higher commercial premiums,” the commission said in a lengthy report.

Last year, your correspondent interviewed Brandies economist Stuart Altman, who chairs the panel, about what Massachusetts is doing to contain health costs.

First of all, it is the only state that has recognized that it should be involved in total state spending. Some other states that are closer are Vermont and Maryland. But the Massachusetts state government is really acknowledging that it has responsibility for not only what it spends on Medicaid, but that it should be concerned with total spending.



How to find health and science events in Boston

The Boston Science and Engineering Lectures website includes links to a lot of labs and a lot of talks.  Frill-free, constantly updated and — despite a disclaimer — very thorough, the site’s calendar is a reminder of the benefits of living in a college town with three medical schools and some of the world’s most elite hospitals.

A look at the health talks on today’s list offers the following:

12:15p. “Food’s Environmental Footprint: The Potential, Limits and Politics of Life Cycle.” Susanne Freidberg. Tufts: Jaharis Family Center, Behrakis Auditorium, 150 Harrison Ave. Details.

3 – 4:30p. “Stem Cell Therapy and Medical Tourism: Of Promise and Peril?” A forum. HLS: Austin Hall, Room 111. Details.

4p. “3000 bacterial genomes: What have we learned?” Ramunas Stepanauskas. Single Cell Genomics Center. MIT: 48-316, 15 Vassar St. Details.

4p. “Some Mathematics of Immunology and of Protein Folding.” Steve Smale. MIT: 46-3002 (Singleton Auditorium). Details.

4p. “Up in Smoke: The Long Run Impact of Improved Cooking Stoves.” Rema Hanna. A forum discussion. Kennedy School: Littauer 382, 79 JFK St. Details.

4:30p. “World Energy Outlook.” Fatih Birol, Chief Economist, Director, Global Energy Economics, International Energy Agency. MIT: Wong Auditorium, Tang Center (E51-115). Details.

5 – 8p. “Synthesizing the Future of Synthetic Biology.” Martin Goldberg and Timothy K. Lu. Synthetic Biology Group. UK Trade & Investment, 7th Floor, One Broadway, Cambridge. Details & Registration.

in Health and Disease.”

Richard Flavell.
HMS:  Armenise Amphitheater, 210 Longwood Avenue.
(It is policy that a Harvard ID, or hospital affiliate ID, must be shown to get into the
Armenise building, though I have been told that security will let you in if you specify
that you are attending a lecture.)


7p. “What’s in your Genes: Whole Genome Sequencing and its Impact on Personalized Medicine.” HMS: Armenise Amphitheater, 200 Longwood Ave. Details.

New Commonhealth and Ozzy’s genes

Not in the same story

Check out the new and improved Commonhealth on While you’re there, check out Radio Boston’s conversation with new BC/BS CEO Andrew Dreyfus, in particular the discussion of global payments.

From Commonhealth: Massachusetts is the leading laboratory for health care reform in the nation. It is also the hub of medical innovation. But as the nation looks on, what is the reality on the ground here? We’d like CommonHealth to be your go-to source for news, conversation and analysis about these historic efforts as they unfold. Your hosts are Carey Goldberg, former Boston bureau chief of The New York Times, and Rachel Zimmerman, former health and medicine reporter for The Wall Street Journal.

With BHN and White Coat Notes at the Globe, Boston is now a three health-news-blogs town. (Not to mention a lot of niche blogs like The Health Blawg The Health Business blog and Nature Network Boston.)  In blogging, as in  journalism, competition is good. We can see who poaches someone else’s story first.

With that in mind, they did beat me on the link to Julie Rover’s NPR piece on primary care, which features a doc from Maine. But do note that none of the other blogs have this important story:

The Weekly World News — a supermarket tabloid now run as a supplement to the Sun— makes reference to Knome, the Cambridge genome sequencing company. As reported elsewhere, the company is sequencing Ozzy Osbourne’s genome.

Ozzy is interested in finding out why he has survived but the study may well produce an incidental benefit to medical science in general. For instance, it may be that some variant in his genes make this liver better than most at breaking down toxic substances. It that’s true, gene therapies based on Ozzy’s cells could provide powerful weapons in the fight against disease.

Here @ NNB, we scan the all the best medical reporting for links to local scientists.