Steve
Posted by Steve Walsh on Dec 9th, 2019 10:58am

By Maryanne C. Bombaugh, MD,  and Steve Walsh

 (The following was published in the Boston Globe opinion section on Dec. 9, 2019)

Understanding and navigating the health care system is more challenging for patients than at any time in history. The complexities and variations among insurance plans on issues of coverage, out-of-pocket costs, and payment for care are extraordinary as compared to other consumer services. One of the most pressing examples is "surprise medical billing." Such instances occur when a patient receives medical services and is unknowingly cared for by a clinician from outside of the patient’s insurance network. The predictable and understandable result is stress, anger, confusion, and despair.

Local and national policymakers are correctly focusing attention on this issue. When surprise billing occurs, patients are unfairly put in the middle of a matter that should be resolved by their health plan and provider. Corrective actions are long overdue.

Hospitals and physicians are united in their belief that patients should never receive a surprise bill and should be responsible only for what they would customarily pay for in-network care as specified by their insurance policy. In an effort to force change on behalf of our patients, the Massachusetts Medical Society and the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association are supporting legislative efforts aimed at holding patients harmless, requiring transparency, demanding network adequacy, and insisting that information on care and coverage is easily accessible and easy to understand.

The right solution should be modeled on a 2015 law adopted in New York. It has proven effective in protecting patients from surprise medical bills and has rightly taken them out of the middle of negotiations between health care providers and insurance companies. The law does so by holding patients harmless, and then encouraging providers and insurers to negotiate a rate when unexpected out of network care happens. And, if that fails, by establishing an arbitration model that compels providers and insurers to reach resolution through an independent arbiter.

The New York model relies on "baseball-style" arbitration. If the provider and insurer cannot reach resolution on a payment amount, each side brings their "last, best offer" to the table. The arbiter picks one of the two offers and there is no middle ground. By eliminating the option of modification, it is incumbent upon each side to bring forward realistic, reasonable proposals.

In 2017, seven million people were treated in New York hospital emergency departments, and of those cases only 849 went to arbitration. The average cost of arbitration was $225 to $325 per case, paid by the losing side. Arbitration decisions have been pretty evenly split between providers and insurers, and all involved — patients, health care providers, insurers — support the law as a reasonable solution to a complex problem. The effect of the law on costs has been positive as well, with the growth of health care premiums in New York being significantly less than the national average.

Despite the demonstrable success of the New York model, the insurance industry in Massachusetts is pushing for government-mandated "benchmarking" to determine rates paid to physicians. In other words, while the root cause of surprise billing is inadequate insurance networks, the insurers’ answer to this pressing problem is government rate-setting with no direct benefit to patients.

Benchmarking is inherently biased and would force clinicians to accept specific, mandated rates based on often inaccurate data supplied by the insurance companies themselves. Most troubling, it would undermine patient access to care — especially in smaller communities where hospitals are struggling and access to physicians is limited. The heavy hand of government would create an unfair imbalance in the health care marketplace and insurers would have no incentive to engage physicians in building robust health care networks. The connected system of care we have all been working towards in Massachusetts would immediately become fragmented and disjointed. How do we know? It’s happening right now in California following the recent enactment of a rate-setting approach to surprise billing.

The surprise billing issue is understandably one of great concern for our patients. We must immediately implement a solution that expands patient protections. At the same time, we must also preserve and advance patient access to health care services. The New York approach is a proven method to protect patients from surprise medical bills while ensuring their continued access to physicians and other committed caregivers. Massachusetts should follow its lead.

Dr. Maryanne C. Bombaugh, MD,  is a practicing obstetrician/gynecologist and president of the Massachusetts Medical Society. Steve Walsh is president and CEO of the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association.

 


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Steve
Posted by Steve Walsh on Jul 29th, 2019 11:40am

The following blog post is from Guest Commentator Jody White, President and CEO of Lowell General Hospital and Circle Health, Executive Vice President of Wellforce, and the current chair of the MHA Board of Trustees:

As I assume the Chair of the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association Board of Trustees, healthcare in our state and nation finds itself on the precipice of transition and change.

In Massachusetts, we are privileged to have access to some of the greatest talent in the country, if not the world, and with that privilege comes a responsibility to light the way forward.

It is my hope that over the next year I can help our member organizations advance our goals by driving consensus in three areas that will shape the future of care.

First, we must continue to expand our thinking well beyond the four walls of the hospital as we seek to better connect all components of our commonwealth’s health system. And it is crucial that these efforts be driven and informed by the voices of our physicians. Our caregivers drive innovation at their own workplaces every day and their voices will prove to be an invaluable part in evolving our system as a whole.  

Second, we must understand our association’s role in moving care “upstream” and address those factors that challenge health. What is our role in advancing the agenda to address social determinants of health? And are we prepared to challenge a fee-for-service delivery system that needs disruption?

And finally, we need to keep our great association focused on working together as a powerful voice that is prepared to move healthcare forward.

As our industry continues the march towards value and reducing the total cost of care, it will be critical that we find innovative ways to connect all aspects of healthcare delivery; continuing to work in disconnected silos will only serve to hinder our progress.

These forces will drive us to a better understanding of the complete care continuum, to new and expanded partnerships that improve access and efficiency, and of course the imperative to engage and empower our physicians as never before.

It’s very important work.

When we added "Health" to the MHA name, we did so with purpose.  Collectively we all have numerous and varied efforts underway to bring our community benefit plans to life, and to fulfill our responsibility to improve the health and wellbeing of the communities we serve.

As I think about our industry evolving away from traditional, fee-for-service transactions and towards a renewed focus on creating health, I believe the MHA member organizations are poised to add value.

At Lowell General Hospital and Circle Health, we are taking bold steps to improve the overall health of our communities by improving access to care and proactively addressing the non-clinical factors that lead to high utilization, readmissions and poor outcomes.

By looking to have a more "upstream" influence on the well-known factors that affect the health of those we serve, we are challenged to move away from our fee-for-service system that rewards "doing things to sick people."

We will be asked to think differently about not only the total cost of high quality care but also about finding new ways to fund investments that prevent illness in the first place. Several of our members are well along in this journey and it is my hope we can all learn and engage.

Additionally, all of this work would benefit from enhanced partnerships with the payer community.  Finding common ground and fixing our eyes on strategic partnerships that focus on protecting and improving health versus transacted, multi-year contracts will be essential.

Over the next year, I look forward to leveraging our collective knowledge and strength to advance an agenda that is impactful, transformative and helpful to all whom we serve.

 

Jody White is President and CEO of Lowell General Hospital and Circle Health, Executive Vice President of Wellforce, and the current chair of the MHA Board of Trustees.

 


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Steve
Posted by Steve Walsh on Apr 18th, 2019 9:56am

By MHA President & CEO Steve Walsh

As the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association (MHA) and its member hospitals and healthcare systems continue to work with policymakers to improve affordability and enhance high-quality patient care, we strongly support the tenets of universal healthcare coverage and maintaining a robust system of patient access. However, we are opposed to "Medicare for All," as it could endanger the collective success we have achieved in Massachusetts and inhibit access and harm healthcare quality across the country.

The Commonwealth serves as a paragon of healthcare reform and universal access. The combination of our statewide policies and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have helped to secure health insurance coverage for 97 percent of Massachusetts residents – the highest rate in the nation. At the same time, our costs are growing more slowly than the national average and we are consistently beating ambitious cost containment benchmarks while offering some of the highest levels of quality patient care in the United States. Coverage expansion has allowed us to direct our focus on equitable access, population health management, and other targeted investments in social determinants of health that lead to improved quality of life and better outcomes.

MHA urges policymakers to prioritize preserving and expanding the gains that have been made nationally through the ACA. Despite delivering promising results in many states, not every area of the country has been able to take advantage of the opportunities offered by this comprehensive package of policies. Even more disturbing, efforts to dismantle the ACA continue through funding cutbacks coupled with ongoing legal and regulatory challenges. Proposals such as "Medicare for All" carry significant risk for our complex system of patients, healthcare providers, and taxpayers. We should instead focus our attention on stabilizing the ACA.

Medicare is an essential program for seniors and disabled Americans. It is successful because we all depend on it – every elder American is eligible, regardless of their financial and health status. Because of its importance, its support remains a national priority. The long term effect of Medicare expansion comes with the risk of an underfunded program, resulting in a two-tiered system of care – middle-class and low-income elders would struggle with limited coverage, while wealthy Americans could supplement the available benefit. We fear that the many proposals grouped under the "Medicare for All" banner put the viability of the program – which is already strained – directly at risk. These proposals could also endanger providers' ability to continue offering services, thereby endangering patients' access to care.

Without doubt, more work needs to be done to improve care delivery, to close the coverage and access gaps that remain, and to make healthcare more affordable and sustainable. But, "Medicare for All" is not the answer. As we've learned in Massachusetts, there is no single solution that will cure the many challenges of our complex healthcare system. Instead, we should focus on securing and building upon all that is currently working. Let's defeat the challenges to the ACA, make the necessary refinements, and secure its full implementation nationwide.


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Steve
Posted by Steve Walsh on Mar 15th, 2018 12:06pm

The following blog post is from Guest Commentator Steven Defossez, MD, Vice President for Clinical Integration at the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association:

Finally, common sense has prevailed over a single nurses' union that sued a Massachusetts hospital to try and block mandatory flu vaccination for healthcare workers.

A Suffolk Superior Court judge has dismissed the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) lawsuit that challenged Brigham and Women's Hospital's mandatory flu vaccination policy for employees.

A number of hospitals in Massachusetts require caregivers to receive flu vaccines each year, unless they have a medical or religious exemption, in which case the healthcare worker needs to wear a face mask in the presence of patients. All hospitals in the commonwealth strongly encourage their workers to get vaccinated and offer free flu vaccine to their employees.

For years, the MNA has tried to make one non-starter argument after another against mandatory flu vaccination, garnering strong opposition as far back as 2014 from members of the general public and physicians, who de-bunked the union leadership's incorrect claims that there were a number of adverse events related to flu vaccine, when in fact serious health risk due to flu vaccine is rare. The Boston Globe even wrote an editorial supporting mandatory flu vaccination for all healthcare workers in 2014. The nurses' union's latest objections - that mandatory vaccination is an overreach and unfair given that the vaccine sometimes has limited efficacy  - didn't hold water with the judge or with medical professionals. The Boston Herald article on the judge's decision cites epidemiologists who "urge the vaccination of hospital personnel, given the vulnerable population they care for," and note that "even a vaccine poorly matched with the virus during a particular season may provide some protection."

Our hospitals are taking the lead in this important public health and safety effort, but here in Massachusetts, healthcare employees can and should be universally immunized against influenza each year. MHA strongly supports the establishment of state policies that would require all members of the healthcare workforce without a religious or medical exemption to be vaccinated.

Hospital patients who contract the flu are the most susceptible to severe complications or even death from this illness. Getting a flu shot is safe, it's the best way to protect against the influenza virus, and it can prevent unnecessary anxiety and waste of healthcare resources. As healthcare providers, our members are responsible for promoting public health and should be role models. As centers for care, hospitals will continue to be proactive in ensuring the safest conditions possible for their patients, families, and healthcare professionals alike.


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Steve
Posted by Steve Walsh on Dec 13th, 2017 5:00pm

The Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association (MHA), the Organization of Nurse Leaders (ONL), the Massachusetts Council of Community Hospitals (MCCH) and the Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals (COBTH) have come together to launch the Coalition to Protect Patient Safety.  The Coalition is a joint effort formed in response to the political efforts of one union, the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), who has a proposed ballot question to implement one-size-fits-all staffing requirements in every hospital unit statewide.  The proposed question is expected to go before voters in 2018.  The Coalition’s mission is to protect our state’s healthcare system and patients from the costs and consequences of rigid, government-mandated nurse staffing ratios.

Massachusetts is home to some of the best healthcare institutions in the world because our top priorities have always been patient safety and high quality of care. Hospitals across the Commonwealth work collaboratively with their teams of doctors, nurses, and a wide range of other clinicians and support staff to achieve these goals.

Today’s rapidly evolving healthcare delivery system is focused on flexible, integrated care. Registered nurses are a crucial, respected and deeply-valued part of any hospital caregiving team, but continued flexibility and ability of those teams to adapt to changing circumstances for each patient at each hospital is essential. This proposed question would threaten each individual hospital’s ability to respond to the specific needs of their patients and community, compromising safety.

In recent years, the Commonwealth and the country have been grappling with the rising cost of healthcare. If passed, this nurse staffing measure would increase health spending by more than $880 million each year, a burden that will be felt across the healthcare system. Patients would see higher premiums, deductibles, and taxes at a time when many Massachusetts families are already struggling. Hospitals would be forced to cut vital public health programs and services, such as cancer screenings, opioid initiatives, mental health treatment, early childhood intervention, domestic violence programs and pre- or post- natal care. Some smaller community hospitals would be unlikely to survive.

The MNA, which represents less than 25 percent of nurses in Massachusetts, has pushed government mandated staffing ratios at the State House for more than 20 years without success. In fact, despite being considered at length in dozens of states, staffing ratios have only been adopted in California where there is no evidence that they have improved quality of care. It’s easy to say that “having more nurses is a good thing,” but Massachusetts voters must be presented with all of the facts. MNA leadership points to studies that they claim support ratios; however, research has not provided a specific number that would constitute “the right” level of nurse staffing, because no such number exists. What this ballot measure would do is take patient care decisions away from the healthcare professionals at the bedside, and increase healthcare costs in the process.

The Boston Herald got it right in its editorial last week when the paper called the MNA’s petition “'the most irresponsible approach to healthcare — especially in an era of rising costs — that has ever come down the pike.” The Coalition to Protect Patient Safety agrees, and we look forward to a thoughtful discussion in the coming months about how this measure would actually be detrimental to patient safety – which is precisely why we’re against it.


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Steve
Posted by Steve Walsh on Nov 22nd, 2017 9:47am

Steve Walsh joined the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association (MHA) as president and CEO in November 2017.

A member of the American College of Health Care Executives (ACHE), Walsh previously served as the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Council of Community Hospitals (MCCH), an organization he led since 2014. During his tenure, Walsh worked with executives from Massachusetts healthcare institutions to promote and drive innovative change in healthcare delivery, policy and regulation.

Prior to MCCH, Walsh served six terms in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and was appointed chairman of the House Committee on Health Care Financing in 2011. He oversaw the drafting and passage of the Commonwealth's 2012 landmark healthcare payment reform law, Chapter 224. This legislation incentivized utilization of alternative payment methodologies and investment in community health, while encouraging patient empowerment and primary care. He was also a conferee of Chapter 288 of the Acts of 2010, the Commonwealth's small business health care legislation.

Walsh is a graduate of Wesleyan University, the New England School of Law, and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.


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Posted by (name unknown) on Oct 20th, 2017 11:28am

“Fake news” has unfortunately become part of our culture. This time, however, we have an opportunity – and in fact an obligation – to correct it. If you needed additional proof that the Massachusetts Nurses Association union is focused less on patient care and more on trying to damage hospitals to advance its misguided upcoming ballot initiative to force mandatory staffing ratios, look no further than the recent false press release distributed by the MNA. The nurses’ union untruthfully said Berkshire Medical Center, which was the target of a recent union strike action, had withdrawn its unfair labor practices complaint against the union – when in reality it was the MNA that withdrew a complaint against the hospital.

MNA issued a retraction, of course, and claimed their leaders had “mis-read” the National Labor Relations Board actions. In the union’s zeal to attack Berkshire, they missed something very important – the facts – as they consistently have done in their efforts to advance their mandatory ratios agenda.

And the facts are clear about our state’s healthcare system. Massachusetts hospitals work collaboratively with their teams of doctors, nurses, and a wide range of other clinicians and support staff to achieve some of the best healthcare outcomes for quality and patient safety in the country. Those are the facts.

The Berkshire incident is the latest in a pattern of reckless MNA actions designed to politicize contract negotiations and inflict harm on hospitals.  A June 2017 MNA memo issued before a Tufts Medical Center nurses strike also indicated that the union leadership wanted to pick a strike date “most harmful to the hospital.”

In their own words in both situations, it’s clear that the union is more interested in hurting hospitals than it is in helping patients, or even its own members. That the MNA attempted to validate the Berkshire falsehoods using quotes from their members that were clearly based on inaccurate information provided by the union leadership is particularly disturbing.

There was one true statement in the MNA’s erroneous press release, but it’s not about the hospital, it really reflects the MNA’s own behavior: "This charge was obviously just a public relations ploy, one of many baseless accusations[.]” The union’s false claims and disingenuous actions throughout both the Tufts and Berkshire contract negotiations have been hypocritical and self-serving. And this fact should not be forgotten as the public debate over this issue takes shape over the coming year.


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Posted by (name unknown) on Oct 13th, 2017 2:06am

President Trump's irresponsible decision to discontinue federal insurance cost-sharing reduction subsidies is a devastating one-two punch coming on the heels of yesterday’s Executive Order that could undermine current consumer insurance protections – Protections that are especially important to older, sicker, and poorer Americans with private or work-sponsored insurance.

These announcements will be particularly disruptive to the Massachusetts healthcare system. The commonwealth has been structuring the upcoming 2018 open enrollment offerings  - now just weeks away - based on some $146 million in previously agreed-to federal support. The declaration that federal subsidies will cease “immediately” means millions of low-income Americans, including 80,000 Massachusetts residents, could find themselves unable to afford their health insurance practically overnight, and under the executive action allowing cross-state insurance sales through association health plans, many more individuals will see their coverage costs skyrocket, even if they have commercial insurance (through a job or otherwise), simply because they are older or have a pre-existing condition like asthma or diabetes.

The President claims he’s thrown these grenades on Obamacare so Congress will “fix it.” That’s like burning down your house so you can renovate your front porch.

Thursday’s Executive Order was correctly criticized by numerous healthcare organizations and stakeholders, including the American Hospital Association, and today Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey joined a lawsuit filed by the Attorney General of California in an effort to prevent the president from cutting off the CSR payments.

MHA stands united with our entire Congressional delegation and state leaders including Governor Charlie Baker in condemning these reckless, destructive moves, and fully supports Healey’s actions. We are thankful to have her as a partner in our mission to deliver the best and safest possible patient care.

By ending federal insurance subsidies for poor patients and weakening insurance protections through the Executive Order, the Trump administration has made Friday the 13th a very unlucky day for the entire nation's healthcare community and anyone who may need care - which is every single American.


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Posted by (name unknown) on Jul 31st, 2017 10:16am

The Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association and our members are immensely relieved that the latest GOP Senate healthcare proposal was defeated. Now Congress can – and should – focus on our nation's most important short-term healthcare issue, which is stabilizing the individual insurance market. 

We are extremely grateful to our two senators for their steadfast opposition to the repeal efforts, and for their outstanding leadership throughout the Senate deliberations. MHA looks forward to continued collaboration with our entire congressional delegation, the Baker Administration and all other stakeholders to build upon the solid foundation of the Affordable Care Act and make good healthcare policy better.


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Posted by (name unknown) on Jun 30th, 2017 2:34pm

As reported in the press, the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA)'s own documents reveal that it is planning to strike at Tufts Medical Center at a time that is "most harmful to the hospital." Such action is not only harmful to the hospital, it also is harmful to nurses and others on the caregiving team, and is inexcusable. This type of irresponsible behavior hurts the nurses themselves, since costs of managing a strike will come from funding the hospital has available for nurses' wage increases, and more importantly it shows that the MNA leadership is putting themselves before patients.

The union leadership is also trying to put negative "spin" on pre-emptive steps by Baystate Franklin Medical Center to keep patients safe despite a one-day MNA strike at the hospital. The union knows that when it uses a one-day strike as a negotiating tactic, any replacement nurses must be hired for a minimum of three, or sometimes five, days. So what the MNA calls a "pre-emptive lock-out" is actually the hospital bringing replacement nurses in with enough time to bring them up to speed, and then fulfilling their three-day minimum contract requirements. This is a necessary and responsible action by hospitals and something MNA leadership should understand.

The nurses' union previously has also deliberately coordinated planned strikes in Massachusetts to take advantage of limited nurse replacements. I agree with Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi who wrote, "Interrupting patient care is a risk that everyone, including the union, should work hard to avoid — stat."

The MNA union leadership continues to take a hostile approach to interactions with the hospitals that employ its nurses. This is unfortunate, unnecessary and wrong. It not only harms hospitals, but has the potential to disrupt care.


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Posted by (name unknown) on Jun 21st, 2017 11:56am

The recent op-ed on the healthcare community's climate preparedness from Boston Medical Center President & CEO, Kate Walsh, and Partners HealthCare President & CEO, David Torchiana, was a stark reminder of the grave and very real threat that climate change poses to the health of our nation, and highlights yet another way that Massachusetts hospitals and other healthcare providers are front and center in the effort to keep our residents healthy, not just care for them when they need it.

The article focuses on Boston healthcare facilities' work with the Boston Green Ribbon Commission,to advance energy renewal and efficiency projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 (we are years ahead of schedule, by the way). But hospitals, health systems and other providers across the state are hard at work to reduce their carbon footprints and lead their communities to a healthier future. Massachusetts hospitals have been working closely with their communities to develop and implement a variety of innovative environmentally sustainable steps. MHA continues to work with our members to share hospital best practices and other resources to enhance statewide goals of reducing our overall carbon footprint.

Protecting the environment directly results in benefits to public health. At a time when both efforts seem to be under increasing attack, Massachusetts hospitals, health systems and other providers remain steadfast and continue to innovate to safeguard patients, their families and loved ones on every front.

 


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Posted by (name unknown) on May 4th, 2017 5:53pm

MHA and our member hospitals, health systems and other providers have made great strides in healthcare payment and delivery reform, thanks to Massachusetts' groundbreaking health reform law of 2006 and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). We believe our state serves as an example of how the ACA's approach to expanding access to affordable health coverage can be successful nationally if given the time and support it deserves.

But continued efforts by President Trump and Republican congressional leaders to repeal the ACA will severely damage the progress we have made. Today's House passage of an amended version of the American Health Care Act (ACHA) seeks to end our nation's very solid advances toward accessible, high-quality care for all residents and will likely send many of those in the country back to the "bad old days" when pre-existing conditions put both coverage and care out of reach for millions of Americans and insurance for lower-income patients was inadequate or non-existent.

The ACHA, as written, will halt the advances our state and country have made in healthcare access, affordability and delivery. Most troubling, it would put health coverage in jeopardy for many Americans, particularly for older and sicker patients. It is inexcusable that the House would vote on a bill that could have such dramatic consequences for the healthcare system and the nation's solvency without its members having adequate time to understand what is in the bill or what it would cost.

MHA also remains strongly opposed to the repeal of the ACA. And we applaud the many Massachusetts leaders such as Governor Charlie Baker who have joined our entire Congressional delegation by going on record with their opposition to the current repeal/replace effort, citing the threat posed to Massachusetts’ near universal health insurance coverage for its residents and the potential loss of millions of dollars in vital federal funding for healthcare.

MHA and our members are likewise distressed by this latest effort to roll back the progress and benefits achieved under the ACA, and we're grateful that our entire Massachusetts Congressional delegation stands uniformly opposed to such measures.

None of the proposals or amendments that have been put forward in Congress would maintain the insurance coverage that currently exists as a result of the ACA, or continue the quality and delivery system improvements now underway. They would, in fact, be extremely harmful to our nation's health. With lives in the balance, hospitals, healthcare professionals and patient advocates across the country will be redoubling our efforts in the weeks and months ahead to defeat the House bill.


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Posted by (name unknown) on Apr 20th, 2017 12:12pm

This is national Healthcare Decisions Week, and throughout the month of April, MHA is re-doubling its effort to bring attention to the importance of advance healthcare planning – the process you want your loved ones and caregivers to help you carry out if you become seriously ill.

If you have a plan in place and discussed it with those close to you, it will ensure that your family will not be burdened with making tough decisions on your behalf if you become seriously ill, and that your wishes will be carried out. Having a plan in place can also avoid disputes between family members who may have differing ideas about the care you should, or should not, receive. And avoiding those disputes, which often occur in care settings, assists the caregivers at your bedside as well; they will be able to provide the care you wish without conflict.

The decision week is an initiative of The Conversation Project, working collaboratively with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. This month, MHA is reaching out to educate our staff, the surrounding community, and our membership on the importance of advance healthcare planning. We've provided all MHA employees with a "Getting Started Tool Kit" from Honoring Choices Massachusetts, and have also offered and provided the tool kits to several of our neighbors in "The District" – the Burlington, Mass. executive park where our offices are located. This toolkit allows any competent individual over the age of 18 to:

• Choose a healthcare agent in a healthcare proxy;

• Write down their choices for care in a personal directive; and

• Learn how to talk to their care providers to align their care to their choices.

There are a lot of moving parts to advance care planning, but much of the information available to the public is clearly written, with easy-to-follow steps. And while the decision to begin a conversation about serious illness and end-of-life care is almost always a difficult one to make, avoiding such a conversation now may make things more difficult for you, your loved ones, and your healthcare providers further along in your life.

PatientCareLinkthe healthcare quality and transparency website MHA co-sponsors with the Organization of Nurse Leaders – MA, RI, NH & CT (ONL), Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts (HCA) and Hospital Association of Rhode Island (HARI), also contains a great deal of information about advance healthcare planning; click on "Healthcare Planning Throughout Your Life" under the For Patients & Families Tab, or "Serious Illness Care" under Improving Patient Care.

Please join me and the rest of the MHA community in taking this important first step to make your own healthcare plan. Knowing you have control over your care even in serious situations is of tremendous value, both to you and your loved ones.

 


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Posted by (name unknown) on Jan 13th, 2017 10:14am

Hospitals and other healthcare providers are a foundation for good in the United States, but our nation’s very solid progress toward accessible, high-quality care for all residents is now under siege as a result of the misguided campaign led by President-elect Trump and Republican congressional leaders to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

MHA is strongly opposed to the repeal of the ACA, and is one of the founding members of the new Massachusetts Coalition for Coverage and Care. This broad alliance of consumers, providers, health insurers, businesses, labor unions, and faith organizations is working to further educate policymakers in Massachusetts and Washington DC about the serious consequences that will result if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. We are also working to identify actions that the state and others can take to protect coverage and care for our residents.

Our greatest concern with repeal is the threat it poses to the coverage expansions that have dramatically reduced the number of uninsured in Massachusetts, as well as the advances underway to reform how healthcare is paid for and delivered.

Massachusetts leads the nation in the percentage of its residents with health insurance coverage – at 97%. But contrary to what seems to be popular opinion here, there is tremendous risk to that progress if the ACA is repealed and/or replaced, including the loss of millions of dollars in federal funding.

Massachusetts has been a pioneer in expanding health coverage over the years, including our state's historic 2006 health reform law that served as a model for the ACA. We believe our state serves as an example of how the ACA's approach to expanding access to affordable health coverage can be successful nationally if given the time and support it deserves.

With 10 years now passed since then-Governor Mitt Romney signed our initial health reform initiative into law, we can proudly say that the commonwealth's is better off healthcare-wise than it was in 2005. And I know we share this sentiment with other Massachusetts healthcare providers, insurers, the employer community, government leaders, and, most importantly, Massachusetts consumers and families. Yet all of these advances will be directly endangered if the ACA is repealed.

The ACA, like Medicare in 1965, has had its growing pains, but the benefits of the program far exceed any ongoing problems. As with any comprehensive law, it has been a work in progress. We are still reviewing all the potential impacts of repeal, but the immediate threats of coverage and Medicaid waiver losses, the end of quality initiatives, and the financial strain that will be placed upon hospitals are all extraordinarily troubling.

To my knowledge, no proposal has been floated that would actually maintain the insurance coverage that currently exists as a result of the ACA, or that would continue the quality and delivery system improvements now underway.

While I'm confident that the healthcare culture here in the commonwealth will continue to prioritize the advances we have made, the loss of federal support for affordable health coverage could have severe consequences in Massachusetts, as well as nationwide. We should not turn back the clock on the strong progress we have made.

 


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