Policy Update: August 3, 2012

On July 31st - the last day of formal sessions of the Massachusetts state legislature for the current year - the House and Senate both approved and sent to the Governor the conference report (S.2400) on the so-called health care cost containment legislation and the conference report on comprehensive economic development legislation, also known as the Speaker's Jobs Bill.

Economic Development Legislation 

The votes for the legislation were near-unanimous and the Governnor is expected to sign the bill into law. The bill included two provisions of interest:

  • a $50 million Science and Technology Research and Development Matching Grant Fund that will provide state matching funds for capital expenditures to universities and other non-profit scientific research organizations for large-scale, long-term research and development activities determined to have the greatest potential to support scientific and technological innovation and stimulate economic and employment opportunities in conjunction with industry in the Commonwealth. Funds must match funds provided by the federal government or other private sources and must leverage at least $3 for every $1 of state grant. Private universities or private non-profit research organizations are eligible to up to half of the available funds. In using the other half of the proceeds to which it is entitled, the University of Massachusetts is authorized to partner with private universities as necessary.
  • a $2 million Talent Pipeline Program, which will build connections between educated talent and in-state early stage companies by providing matching stipends to student-interns at technology and innovation start-ups and building connections to venture capital financing. This includes $1 million to support paid internships in start-up companies and $1 million for an entrepreneur and startup venture capital mentoring program.

Both programs would be administered by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC), a quasi-public state economic development agency. The MTC will develop the Matching Fund program guidelines in coordination with the University of Massachusetts and other entities as deemed appropriate. In an earlier version of the bill, the Matching Fund would have highlighted projects in certain areas, including cybersecurity and advanced manufacturing — but that language was excised from the conference report.

Health Care Cost Containment Legislation

The House and Senate both approved and sent to the Governor the conference report (S.2400) on the so-called health care cost containment legislation. Executive Branch staff actively participated in the conference and the Governor is expected to sign the bill into law the Monday, August 6th. 

Broadly, the bill seeks to wring up to $200 billion in savings out of industry health care spending in Massachusetts over the next 15 years by encouraging providers to move from fee-for-service to alternative payment models (including a global payment and patient centered medical home models, among others). A summary and text of the bill can be found here.

Overall, it would require aggregate medical spending costs to grow at equal or below the rate of growth of the state's economy over the next 10 years.

Below are the provisions for which the University strongly advocated over the last year:

  • Expanding the scope of practice for Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners;
  • Providing a new loan forgiveness program to incent primary care providers including Physician Assistants to practice in rural community health centers; and
  • Undertaking a comprehensive review of the law's effectiveness in improving quality and access and reducing cost, to be overseen by the state auditor, and to be completed, with the possible assistance of an "independent contractor."

The bill would also:

  • Expand limited service clinics to improve primary care and prevention and reduce the use of emergency care;
  • Assess a one-time $225 million fee on hospitals and health insurers;
  • Improve disclosure & transparency surrounding costs of procedures and patient care.

Finally, the bill would create a number of special commissions and task forces with representatives with diverse professional expertise on which University faculty might consider seeking to serve, including:

  • The 11-member board of the Health Policy Commission;
  • A pharmacy cost containment commission;
  • A special task force on substance abuse and mental health;
  • A commission on prevention and wellness;
  • A special commission to review public payer reimbursement rates and payment systems (1 seat expressly reserved for representative from an academic institution); and
  • A healthcare workforce advisory council