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Stitching Together a Health Cost Containment Law

May 18, 2012

BOSTON - The Massachusetts Senate worked Thursday on a bill aimed at slowing the spiraling costs of health care. The progress on addressing dozens of amendments to the measure was watched closely - and with notable optimism in some quarters.

One theme likely to emerge when and if the legislation is adopted is a new emphasis on preventive efforts, according to Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, executive director of Health Care for All. She says that depends on the Senate finding a way to fund a public health trust.

"We think it will be a first-in-the-nation effort to incentivize and pay for evidence-based programs at the local and community level."

Overall, the legislation's goal is to reduce projected costs by $150 billion over the next 15 years. Opponents look askance at the costs of the bill's provisions and the creation of new state agencies. However, Whitcomb Slemmer says it is a potentially historic moment.

"We in Massachusetts have a front seat to history being made. We're the first jurisdiction in the country to address the cost and quality issue."

In her view, the Commonwealth is on the leading edge of health care reform, once again.

"Just as we showed the rest of the country how to provide almost everybody with health care coverage - which now has been echoed in the President's Affordable Care Act - we're confident that we're going to demonstrate how to improve the quality of care, while addressing escalating health care costs."

The discussion moves to the House next week, where additional amendments will likely be considered.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - MA