SALEM — A legislative task force will look to three other states this week for information about how they regulate health care costs.

The Joint Interim Task Force on Health Care Cost Review will hear testimony at its meeting on Friday from health care officials in Vermont, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. The task force has already discussed Maryland’s work on the issue in previous meetings, and has modeled its process off Maryland’s Health Services Cost Review Commission.

“Consumers are feeling the pinch of rising health care costs,” according to a 2016 publication from the National Academy for State Health Policy, one of the materials for Friday’s meeting, that highlights the Maryland, Vermont and Massachusetts systems. “Health care premium and out-of-pocket costs exceed both wage growth and inflation.”

Beginning in the 1970s, Maryland regulators sought to limit increases in hospital costs through an all-payer model. Medicaid, Medicare and private insurers pay hospitals a fixed amount every year for inpatient and outpatient services, rather than on a fee-for-service basis. The amount is adjusted for quality, according to the National Academy for State Health Policy.

The idea is that hospitals, paid a predictable, fixed amount, are encouraged to improve the quality of care and provide preventative services. It’s also intended to mitigate cost increases for people on private insurance by increasing the amount that public health plans like Medicare pay. Detractors say that such a system can limit competition between hospitals.

Massachusetts and Vermont have also sought to limit health care cost increases, and officials from those states will present information about their systems.

Task force members will also hear testimony about Pennsylvania’s Rural Health Model, where participating rural hospitals are paid with an all-payer model.

The task force, created during the 2017 legislative session, met for the first time in November. It’s led by Cameron Smith, head of the state’s Department of Consumer and Business Services, and includes members from the Legislature and the health care sector.

The group is expected to submit a report on its findings by Sept. 15.

Another legislative task force — created by legislation in the recent short session — will study the issue of prescription drug pricing. Its first meeting has not been scheduled.

The Capital Bureau is a collaboration between EO Media Group and Pamplin Media Group.


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