Viewpoint: Massachusetts lawmakers should adopt federal review policies for healthcare legislation

The Massachusetts legislature considered multiple healthcare bills in the last year that could have significant consequences for providers, payers and patients, but  to truly understand the ramifications of these laws, the state must institute a formal review process for healthcare legislation, according to an op-ed in Commonwealth by John McDonough, DrPH, a professor at Boston-based Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a former member of the Massachusetts House.

Recent bills in the state's House and Senate sought to support struggling community hospitals by  taxing larger systems and insurers. The proposals drew criticism from a number of key industry stakeholders. Though the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission exists to perform legislative reviews, there is no protocol forcing  lawmakers to submit bills to this organization.

Dr. McDonough  writes that state legislators should adopt the Congressional Budget Office's model and perform analyses for all healthcare proposals to ensure people understand their potential effects.

"I suggest that in their adoption of joint rules for the 2019-20 legislative session, the House and Senate include that any major health legislation produced by either the House or Senate should be 'scored' by the Health Policy Commission," Dr. McDonough writes. "Healthcare is deviously complex, important, costly, and notoriously prone to unintended consequences. A benchmark analysis would help legislators, the administration, interest groups, and citizens to understand the consequences of major system changes."

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