Reform barely impacts healthcare costs, use in Massachusetts

Healthcare reform in Massachusetts, which served as the model for the federal law, didn't lead to a significant increase in healthcare utilization, length of stay or costs, according to new research presented at the American Heart Association's Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions 2013.

The quarterly admissions for each hospital averaged 1,557 after Massachusetts reformed its healthcare system, only a 3.6 percent jump from pre-reform numbers. Similarly, three comparison states without reform saw a 3.3 percent increase during the 2004-2010 study period.

While the researchers sought to verify concerns that reform dramatically increases healthcare use and costs, they found minimal effect, according to the research announcement.

"Changes we saw in Massachusetts are very similar to those we saw in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania--states without reform," lead author Amresh D. Hanchate, Ph.D., an economist at the V.A. Boston Healthcare System and assistant professor at Boston University School of Medicine, said in a statement.

He called for more research to discover if the delivery of services changed, such as whether inpatient care moved to an outpatient setting.  

Meanwhile, research from PricewaterhouseCoopers examining the Massachusetts reform law suggests businesses will continue offering health plans to their employees in a post-reform market.

Given the similarities between the Massachusetts reform law and Affordable Care Act, Massachusetts provides a vision for the future direction of healthcare, Walter W. Morrissey, M.D., senior vice president and Dan Clarin, assistant vice president of consulting firm Kauffman Hall said last week at the Becker's Hospital Review annual meeting.

They pointed to the state designing value-based care efforts around narrow networks, ACOs and provider-payer-partnerships, Becker's Hospital Review reported. Hospitals can gain some insight from Massachusetts, where physician practice acquisitions have been heating up, Morrissey and Clarin noted.

To learn more:
- here's the research announcement
- read the Becker's article