Healthcare Beats Benchmark – But Big Problem Looming

The state’s Center for Health Information and Analysis released its latest annual report on the performance of the Massachusetts healthcare system – and the picture it paints is a positive one.

According to the data, total healthcare expenditures per capita grew at just 1.6% from 2016 to 2017, with cost growth slowing across all services and remaining significantly below the 3.6% benchmark set by the Health Policy Commission. Hospital inpatient costs increased less than 1% from the previous year and there were notable improvements in performance on many quality measures. MassHealth expenditures decreased last year after two years of above-benchmark growth, and preferred provider organization (PPO) members under alternative payment methodologies (APMs) also increased.

While CHIA’s report did find that hospital outpatient spending growth exceeded the benchmark for a second year, the increase in this area was down from the year before. The report doesn’t provide further insight into what could be specifically driving the increased outpatient spending. A quick MHA analysis posits that the increase in outpatient costs could represent an overall positive change – such as procedures moving from inpatient to outpatient settings. MHA encourages a further “under the hood” look at the trends to ensure they are well understood.

MHA’s President & CEO Steve Walsh said of the report, “All of the improvements CHIA highlighted are directly threatened by Question 1 on this November’s ballot, which proposes mandated one-size-fits-all registered nurse staffing ratios. Research shows the ballot proposal will increase healthcare costs by more than $1 billion annually while creating barriers to access and forcing closures of services throughout the state.”