Senators planning out-of-state trip to research health care costs

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STATE HOUSE — A group of senators plans to travel in the fall to explore strategies used by other states to keep health care costs in check, Senate President Stanley Rosenberg said Tuesday.

The plan is in its early stages, with the destinations and the roster of lawmakers who will attend not yet finalized, a Rosenberg spokesman told the News Service.

“Health care grows at faster than the rate of inflation,” Rosenberg said during an interview on WHMP Radio. “We’re working hard at trying to contain costs through a new policy construct that we created a few years ago, but it’s going to take a number of years before it really materializes in any significant way.”

The senators plan to visit “three or four states,” Rosenberg said.

A law passed in 2012 set a statewide benchmark for annual health care expenditure growth, among other provisions aimed at keeping costs in line. A September 2015 report by the Center for Health Information and Analysis, an agency created under the law, found that health spending grew 4.8 percent in 2014, outpacing the 3.6 percent benchmark.

CHIA measured 2013 health care spending growth at 2.3 percent, coming in below benchmark in the agency’s first report.

The reports examining health spending growth are released in September and are followed the next month by the Health Policy Commission’s annual cost trends hearing, which explore factors driving growth. This year’s hearings are set for Oct. 17 and 18 at the Suffolk University Law School.

The cost containment law also called for a move away from fee-for-service care, an area where Rosenberg said has seen some progress.

“There are a few different models being experimented with and implemented on both the public side and the private side,” Rosenberg said. “There is starting to be some impact, positive impact, of that, but it’s got a long way to go.”

Rosenberg, who just returned from a trip to northern Europe where he and others examined climate change responses, compared the multi-state swing to a special Senate committee’s trip to Colorado in January to study the effects of recreational marijuana.

The eight senators who visited Colorado released recommendations for how Massachusetts lawmakers should respond if voters in November approve a ballot question seeking to legalize adult marijuana use.

“That trip was funded by the Milbank Foundation out of New York, which is a public policy shop that helps legislatures work on various public policy problems, and we’re hoping they’re going to support the trip that I just referenced to visit other states that we think might be ahead of us on cost containment strategies,” Rosenberg said.

— Written by Katie Lannan

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