In an op-ed piece in this morning's Boston Globe, two chief executives of Massachusetts health insurance plans offer their thoughts on controlling healthcare costs.
In fact, James Roosevelt, Jr., President and CEO of Tufts Health Plan, and Charles D. Baker, President and CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, do not offer much of substance in this piece. They do, however, vigorously advocate for more transparency in healthcare operations: specifically, public hearings on cost drivers and public reporting of healthcare revenues and expenses.
These are good proposals. The public should become more aware of what is driving the dramatic increases in healthcare costs - and specifically, the extent to which these are driven by provider compensation, patient utilization, capital costs, and external costs (such as those passed on by pharmaceutical companies).
Roosevelt and Baker do present one stunning statistic. Between 2002 and 2006, healthcare spending in Massachusetts increased from $46.5 billion to $62.1 billion. As Roosevelt and Baker note, this is a significant increase - 33 percent in four years. What is also striking - but not really surprising - is that healthcare spending is a large and growing part of the Massachusetts economy. In 2002, healthcare spending was 16 percent of this state economy; by last year, it was more than 18 percent.
Many public policy discussions in recent years have focused on healthcare. Much of the discussion during the recent special election in the Massachusetts Fifth Congressional District centered on healthcare. Roosevelt and Baker's piece is welcome because it will help maintain focus on the issue - both at high levels of government and broadly among the public.