Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Still No Portrait in the Lobby

Anyone who knows me well will be aware of my fondness of aphorisms, one of which is that no hospital administrator ever got his portrait in the lobby for saving money.

As a follow-on to the publicity about the judicial rejection of Partners’ expansion plans and the appointment of its new CEO, The Boston Globe in its February 6 edition ran another front page article under the byline of Robert Weisman, this time headlined Partners looks to mend ties, tame costs.

The article pointed out that “Fears of higher health care costs were at the root of opposition to Partners’ recently rebuffed [expansion] plans” and that “A state judge cited rising health costs when she rejected a settlement in late January that would have allowed the [expansion.}”

Later in the article, the new CEO (Dr. David Torchiana) is quoted as saying “In Massachusetts, there is an almost overwhelmingly singular focus on cost because access has already been addressed” through the state’s 2006 universal health care law.

That same Globe edition carried an article reporting that health insurance companies in Massachusetts are projecting a 7% increase in costs for 2015.  That is almost twice the goal of 3.6% set by the state in 2012.   

Dolores Hamilton, a human resources director for the Town of Framingham, responded to the announced increase by saying "It's a budget-buster" and the article speculated that many employers would be passing the increase along to employees through higher copays and deductibles.  No mention of the need for providers to find less costly ways of providing care.

So we may not yet be ready to live with the pain of serious cost control.  There are signs that we are on the road to getting there but hospital executives who hope to see their portraits in the lobby will for the time being have to get it some other way.


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