Tag Archives: affordability

Why It’s Time to Reduce Health Care Costs in Massachusetts

Reducing the cost of health care is a top priority for Partners HealthCare. For the past 40 years, per capita health expenditures in the U.S. have risen at a rate higher than inflation, with challenging consequences. For U.S. employers operating in a global marketplace, rising health care costs can be crippling to the bottom line. When it comes to government payers, tight budgets that have to accommodate defense, infrastructure, education, social services and more can’t tolerate increasing health care costs. Finally, some argue that too much health care spending is wasted.

There’s no question that something needs to change, and we have an obligation to help make that happen. Through a series of posts here, we’ll be sharing our thoughts on this subject including the facts about health care costs and how we are doing our share to reduce them.

For background, read a few of our recent posts on the cost of health care…


Tags: affordability, redesigning care

Transparency on Our Finances

Occasionally, as part of the ongoing health care cost dialogue, the issue of hospital assets is raised and the question is asked – why do hospitals need “reserves”? Most hospitals and health systems across the state have some level of investment assets and there are good reasons for it.

Our Assets

Partners is fortunate to be a well-managed, financially-healthy organization. As the largest health care system in the state and the largest private employer, Partners had investments worth $7.5 billion as of September 30, 2015 (the end of our latest fiscal year), a level comparable to other health systems of similar size around the country.

Our Investment

Included as part of that $7.5 billion are $1.3 billion in gifts that Partners received from generous donors around the world; these funds were given to our hospitals for specific purposes and research programs and are restricted in how they can be used.

But, to get the full picture of our health, both sides of the balance sheet need to be considered. For example, think about home ownership. While on one hand, an individual may have a home that has significant value, most homeowners also have a debt against that asset in the form of a mortgage. The same is true of Partners. We have substantial liabilities – including debts we owe, lease commitments and pension obligations – that offset our investment assets.


Tags: affordability

A Perspective on Health Care Costs

This is the first in a series of occasional posts from Partners HealthCare President and CEO David Torchiana, M.D.

I was recently given the opportunity to talk about Partners HealthCare at a breakfast meeting of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. The topics included concerns about the opioid crisis, our commitment to community health centers and population health management, and our Partners Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) programs to help area students through college, not just with financial support but with mentoring and academic support that would help to ensure that as many as possible could complete their course of study. Getting to college is only the beginning; graduating is the prize.

Since this was a business event, the region’s flourishing life sciences industry was also a principal topic. This sector of our economy has grown many times faster than competitor cities over the last 15 years, a development that can be traced to our concentration of great research universities and teaching hospitals. Four of the nation’s top five independent hospitals funded by NIH are in Boston, and the top two among them are MGH and BWH.
Top NIH-Funded Independent Hospitals


Tags: affordability

Why the 2015 Cost Trends Hearing Shows Both Progress and Potential

This week, the Health Policy Commission met for their annual Cost Trend Hearing to address the challenges our industry faces in controlling health care costs. While many questions remain, some progress has been made, and insurers and providers alike were on hand to share the efforts that collectively they have taken to reduce costs.

For example, Partners HealthCare is one of a handful of providers to participate in new, innovative contract models with Blue Cross Blue Shield, which were announced on Monday. As The Boston Globe reported, the contracts “set budgets to care for patients and reward providers for keeping patients healthy and away from expensive hospital stays and procedures.” It’s an alternative payment model that gives added incentive for positive outcomes, rather than providing reimbursement for all services rendered.

“The single most promising approach to improve patient care and lower costs is to change the way we pay for care — to realign financial incentives to reward the quality, outcome and efficiency of the care patients, our members, receive,” Andrew Dreyfus, CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, told the Commission.


Tags: affordability, industry interactions

Piloting Change and Driving Down Costs Through the Pioneer ACO Program

Today’s health care challenges call for innovative ways to improve the quality of care while reducing costs. For three years, we’ve been pursuing new solutions through the U.S. government’s Pioneer Accountable Care Organization (ACO) program, and federal data released this week show that in the past year, we’ve slowed health care cost growth for 70,000 Medicare patients through the program.

During our third year participating in the Pioneer ACO, we saved $21.6 million, spending 2.7 percent below the benchmark Medicare uses to measure Partners’ performance. In combination with years one and two, we’ve saved a total of $39.2 million—$18.8 million of which were shared with the federal government.

In this pilot initiative, Partners is one of 19 health care organizations working with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Innovation Center to transform the way health care is delivered. Through investments in population health management, patient-centered medical homes and our integrated care management program, among other initiatives, we’ve improved care coordination for some of our most complex patients.


Tags: affordability, uniform high quality

Partners’ Performance in the Pioneer ACO

Since 2012, Partners HealthCare has been one of the participants in the U.S. government’s Pioneer Accountable Care Organization (ACO) pilot program. In both 2012 and 2013, previous reporting showed that Partners had decreased the rate of growth of health care costs.

Last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service (CMS) released an evaluation of Pioneer ACO results for the first two years of the program, as The Boston Globe reported. This evaluation used a different methodology than the one we are held accountable to in our Pioneer ACO contract.


Tags: affordability, industry interactions

Leading the Call for More Focus on Value, Not Volume

We’re teaming up with some of the country’s largest insurers and health care systems to promote new payment models for health care providers that improve the quality of care and help lower costs. As The New York Times reported this week, the Health Care Transformation Task Force will advocate for new payment structures that are based on the value provided to patients, instead of a fee-for-service model.

Our goal is to achieve “Triple Aim” outcomes: better health, better care, and lower costs. As part of the alliance, we’re committing to put 75 percent of our primary care patients into value-based arrangements by 2020. And at Partners, we are already on the right path.


Tags: affordability, redesigning care

Growth in Health Care Costs Continues to Slow for Some Patients

At Partners HealthCare, we believe that when it comes to health care, “high quality” and “affordablility” can go hand-in-hand. Last week, we saw that point proven through our participation in the U.S. government’s Pioneer Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) initiative.

For the second year in a row, Partners lowered health care cost growth for more than 60,000 Medicare patients. Through enhanced care coordination, the rate of cost growth fell by 0.46 percent, resulting in approximately $3.3 million in taxpayer savings, according to new federal data. Combined with our first year in the program, the total savings to date – shared between the federal government and Partners – tally $17.7 million.

More importantly, our Medicare patients are receiving better care. Partners ranked at or above the 90th percentile on 23 of 33 quality measures.


Tags: affordability, uniform high quality

A Unique Partnership to Treat Domestic Violence Survivors

For survivors of domestic violence, recovering from abuse can involve both emotional and physical reconstruction. A unique partnership between Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary expands access to much-needed treatment by providing free or low-cost care to women, men, children and transgender patients who have suffered from domestic violence.

The program began at Mass. Eye and Ear, when Missy Allen, manager of the Facial Nerve Center and Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Center, approached her employer about financially supporting some of the domestic violence patients that the hospital was already treating, reported The Boston Globe. Allen now coordinates care for Mass. Eye and Ear’s domestic violence patients in the program.

MGH began working with Mass. Eye and Ear to treat these patients in 2009.


Tags: affordability, community

Discussing Our Proposed Partnerships with WGBH’s Emily Rooney

Partners HealthCare president and CEO Dr. Gary Gottlieb appeared on WGBH’s “Greater Boston” last night to discuss our proposed partnerships with South Shore Hospital, Hallmark Health and Harbor Medical Associates.

“Our vision is really about our patients — getting them care where they live,” Dr. Gottlieb told host Emily Rooney.

As Rooney stated, Partners is known for our academic medical centers, Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, which serve an important role in providing the highest-quality care available to patients. However, Dr. Gottlieb noted there may not be a need to come to Boston; by partnering with hospitals in Melrose, Medford and Weymouth, we will better serve patients in those communities, closer to their homes, and help control health costs.


Tags: affordability, coordinated care

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