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Mass. panel looks at big hospital service-price disparities

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A Massachusetts committee has discussed ways of resolving the huge disparity in reimbursement payments to hospitals for the same medical services.

The debate centered around a possible state ballot initiative  to cap insurers from reimbursing providers greater than 20 percent of the average cost for a service, and make them  pay no less than 10 percent below the average price to a provider.

The ballot measure has largely been seen as a scare tactic designed to spur healthcare officials into reformative action. As the ballot deadline creeps closer, however, industry experts are determined to find an alternative.

Some hospital industry leaders shared their thoughts.

Norwood (Mass.) Hospital President Kim Basset said the highest-priced hospitals are routinely reimbursed two-and-a-half to three times higher than hospitals with the lowest prices for the same services. “Immediate action is needed,” Ms. Basset said. “If certain hospitals are allowed to be paid more than others, they will continue to use these proceeds to create an unfair market advantage against community hospitals.”

Tim Genz, executive vice president of Massachusetts Hospital Association, focused on  increased price transparency to push consumers to use lower-priced providers.

Steve Walsh, executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Community Hospitals, said, “[We used] a blunt instrument to start a conversation that needs to be started, but… this is the right church, wrong pew.”




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