KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Massachusetts Hospital Costs Not Connected To Quality Of Care, Report Finds

A new report from Massachusetts finds that the price of hospital care there is not necessarily related to quality.

"When it comes to getting high quality medical care in Massachusetts, the bigger hospitals aren't always better. But they tend to be a lot more expensive, according to a new report by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley's office," The Boston Herald reports. "Her investigators have found that the region's most prominent hospital groups have used their money, clout and member base to command, from insurers, much higher fees for even the most basic medical care. But those higher rates don't translate to better care or even more money for doctors, Assistant Attorney General Lois Johnson told state leaders yesterday on the first day of a three-day hearing on health-care costs."

Coakley's investigators reviewed contracts between insurers and hospitals and "found that the cost of care, from sore throats to broken legs, can vary as much as 100 percent from one hospital to another and among doctors' groups across the state. And they found that, in recent years, the pay disparity has increased. If this practice continues, Johnson said, cash-strapped smaller hospitals might be forced to close, giving powerful providers even greater market leverage" (McConville, 3/17).

A new study from Boston University found that "Massachusetts hospitals spent roughly 55% more per person than the average U.S. hospital in 2007, though not as a result of the state's health reform," Modern Healthcare reports. "Since 1997, Massachusetts' hospital cost growth has outpaced the national average in all but two years, with the most significant jump in 2006, the year the state passed its health reform law to significantly expand insurance coverage. But, researchers said, the law had little time to take effect before hospitals' closed their books on fiscal 2006 and Massachusetts' hospital spending growth slowed in 2007 despite a 5.7% increase in the state's insured. Heavy reliance on teaching hospitals, a high doctors-to-population ratio and high surgery rates could be among the factors that contribute to Massachusetts' higher hospital expenses, according to the study" (Evans, 3/16).

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