What will the Massachusetts health cost containment bill do?

Still not sure what the health cost control bill passed by lawmakers this summer will mean for the state? Here’s a handy summary, created by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation.

The brief explains the role of the new Health Policy Commission, charged with setting the state benchmark for health care spending each year and publishing yearly recommendations about how to control costs. The commission also will oversee a new distressed hospital fund, created through a tax on hospitals with higher net assets and a lower volume of patients covered by Medicare or Medicaid.

The summary also explains the role of the new Center for Health Information and Analysis will replace the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, and it steps through changes in infrastructure to support the development of electronic health records in the state, new funding for public health, and many other provisions.

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Another summary published by the foundation explains the effects on the state Medicaid program.

The law requires Medicaid by July 2015 to cover 80 percent of enrollees using “alternative payment methods,” or programs that generally shift from paying for each test or treatment to paying for a patient’s overall care, to encourage doctors and other providers to coordinate more with each other and to focus on preventive care. That change will likely require new contracts between the state and insurers that managed Medicaid patients, authors Robert Seifert and Rachel Gershon of the UMass Center for Health Law and Economics write.

“Many in Massachusetts and across the country will be studying the effectiveness of this new law as it unfolds, judging whether it can stand alongside the 2006 coverage law as a second pillar of health care reform,” they said.