Single-payer experiment in MD could impact other states

Maryland leaders are experimenting with a single-payer system, a plan that could potentially influence other states.

In the all-payer system, the state will control and budget hospital costs, giving all hospitals in Maryland an annual budget to manage their total fees for the year. That budget depends on such factors as hospital location, the previous year's prices and the size of the surrounding population, reported Al Jazeera America.

"You will be getting a certain amount of money. That's the amount of money you will be getting for the year. The hospital then has to monitor its resources to manage the care for those people," Maryland Hospital Association CEO Carmella Coyle told the newspaper.

If the plan can successfully contain costs and improve quality of care during its five-year performance period, Maryland might extend it to other parts of the healthcare industry, such as doctor offices and nursing homes.

Maryland leaders chose to test the single payer approach because the 46 hospitals throughout the state were charging different fees for the same service; sometimes, those fees differed within each hospital, Al Jazeera America noted.

Right now, 10 rural hospitals are operating under the new rules, which soon will apply to the rest of the state's hospitals. Under the five-year demonstration, hospitals will limit annual revenue growth to no more than the growth of the overall economy, 3.58 percent a year. They also have to reach certain goals, including lower rate of readmissions and hospital-acquired infections.

Vermont has a similar single payer plan in the works, which leaders hope to launch in 2017. Like Medicare, Vermont's healthcare would be publicly financed and managed by the government or a government-sanctioned agency, FierceHealthPayer previously reported. And experts from Canada, Denmark and other countries believe a move to universal healthcare will remove quality care barriers that still plague the United States.

To learn more:
- read the Al Jazeera America article