Massachusetts House Passes Legislation to Balance Health Care Market, Protect Vulnerable Hospitals

In an effort to protect community hospitals, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed legislation yesterday to promote a more balanced health care market by strengthening the regulatory processes for health care expansions. The legislation creates a more rigorous review to ensure that when large hospital systems expand, they are not infringing on community hospital markets and raising health care costs for patients. It also requires the ongoing upkeep of a health resource inventory, which will give regulators a better understanding of the Commonwealth’s existing health care resources to inform these review processes and future reform efforts.

“Yesterday, the House took a major step in working to guarantee that every Massachusetts resident has access to quality, affordable health care by passing legislation that will protect community hospitals,” said Speaker of the House Ronald J. Mariano (D-Quincy). “Community hospitals offer high-quality care to the most vulnerable patient populations at affordable rates. Our efforts to control health care cost growth depends on their continued existence.”

The legislation passed yesterday continues the House’s commitment to health care as demonstrated in Massachusetts’ health care reform law of 2006 and of the landmark cost containment law of 2012. Community hospitals operate on thin margins and with the constant possibility of closure. The bill passed by the House yesterday limits unchecked growth of hospital chains, better suiting community hospitals to survive and ensuring continued competition in the health care market.

“Yesterday, The Legislature continued our work to keep up with the ever changing health care marketplace,” said Representative John Lawn, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing (D-Watertown). “This isn’t about any one hospital system. This is about our community hospitals that the Speaker and our members have continued to champion.”

“We emphatically applaud Speaker Mariano and the House of Representatives’ leadership in strengthening the regulatory review process for high-priced provider expansions and capital expenditures,” said the Coalition to Protect Community Care in a statement. “Over the past several months, our coalition of community members, business and nonprofit leaders, and healthcare providers have expressed deep concerns about how Mass General Brigham’s proposal to build three new ambulatory care centers in Woburn, Westwood and Westborough will exacerbate healthcare costs, threaten the financial viability of local, high-value healthcare providers, diminish access to critical safety net services, and perpetuate health inequities. This legislation will ensure that regulators are able to more thoroughly evaluate how high-priced provider expansions, like MGB’s, will impact the market, protecting both patients and healthcare providers across the Commonwealth for generations to come.”  

“An Act enhancing the market review process” (H.1260):  

  • Expands and strengthens the Health Policy Commission’s (HPC) material change notice (MCN) process to include a broader range of transactions and give cost and market impact reviews (CMIRs) more weight in the Determination of Need (DoN) & Attorney General (AGO) proceedings
  • Requires the Department of Public Health (DPH) to consider additional sources of information, including CMIRs and Center for Health Information & Analysis (CHIA) data, as part of the DoN process
  • Re-establishes a health planning council that will assist DPH in maintaining an inventory of health care resources to inform the MCN process and better assess the appropriateness of DoN applications
  • Protects independent community hospitals’ markets and gives hospitals another tool to halt DoN proceedings should a proposed project encroach on their primary service area

The bill passed the House of Representatives with a 158-1 vote. It now goes to the Senate.