There Are Many More Interesting Topics in MA than the Billions Wasted Yearly on Health Care

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Hello?  Did anyone hear what the Health Policy Commission said on January 8?

Of the many, many billions of dollars spent on health care in Massachusetts in 2012, it said that up to 39% of it “could be considered wasteful.”

Thirty-nine percent of all health care spending in 2012 was $26.9 billion.

This was just one of the gems in the commission’s 2013 Cost Trends Report, which was released that day.  The report in its entirety may be found at:

I read the commission’s press release on the report, and a few days later, the report itself.  It’s an amazing document.  Anybody who cares about the future of Massachusetts should read it.

Massachusetts is hooked on health care.  Per capita health care spending here is higher than in any other state.  More than 16% of all economic activity in Massachusetts is related to health care.
I kind of expected the 2013 Cost Trends Report to shake things up, or at least to dominate the news for a week or two.  How wrong I was.  Again.

Who can think about blowing $26 or $27 billion when you have to keep up with what the Kardashians are doing or you’re worried about the draft choices for the Patriots this spring?  Who can possibly pull his mind away from that all-important St. Patrick’s Day Parade in South Boston?
Hospital fee structures?  Boring.  Whacko Hurley?  Fascinating.

No one may want to think about what we could do with all the money we waste on health care, but someone has to.

In that spirit, I will point out that, if by some miracle we could recover that blown $26.9 billion, we could fund at least 70% of the entire state budget in the next fiscal year.  Every taxpayer could get a huge refund.  Our economy would grow faster than the “medicine” they’ll be cultivating in those new, legal pot dispensaries.

Here’s another way to think about it.
The legislature is now considering a bond bill that would allow the state to finance some major, long awaited transportation projects around the state.  In that bill, for example, is $2.3 billion to build the new commuter rail line from Boston to New Bedford and Fall River.  All of the projects combined in that bill will cost $13.15 billion, or less than half of what we wasted on health care in 2012.

The Health Policy Commission is run by a brilliant young man by the name of David Seltz.  Very few people, if any, understand the intricacies of health care policy and health care spending in Massachusetts to the degree that he does.  There could not be a better man than David Seltz to lead the state’s first truly comprehensive effort to bend the health care cost curve downward.

“I look forward,” he said on January 8, “to the conversations and policies this report will generate as we continue to strive to make the Massachusetts health care system more efficient and effective.”

How are those conversations going, Dave?

1 comment:

Dennis Byron said...

But did you read it carefully, sir? The Massachusetts death panel can only specifically identify about $1 billion in waste, not $27 billion. About $500 million of that in the ER system that responded so well to the Marathon bonding last April. The rest of the so-called waste is pure fiction with no specifics.

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