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News of the Day ... In Perspective

11/25/2006

Massachusetts costs 4th-highest; psychiatric hospitals stop admitting

Massachusetts costs for medical, dental, and dependent health coverage reached $9,428 per year in 2006, exceeded only in Alaska, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin, according to a survey by Merced Health & Benefits. This represents an increase of 8.2 percent over 2005, the ninth highest rate of increase in the nation.

Massachusetts lags in adopting consumer-directed health plans that require members to contribute to the first dollar of cost.

“We need to do something about this or it threatens the viability of our new healthcare reform law,” said Richard C. Lord, chief executive of Associated Industries of Massachusetts (Jeffrey Krasner, Boston Globe 11/20/06).

As a result of Gov. Mitt Romney’s emergency budget cuts, mental health patients will face a rough Thanksgiving. State psychiatric hospitals responded by announcing that they will stop admitting new patients on Nov 22, until the patient population dwindles enough to be cared for by a smaller staff. In addition, cuts will eliminate 37 percent of staffers who care for hundreds of emotionally disturbed children and reduce funding for medical school research.

The freeze on admissions “will block up the entire mental health system,” said Toby Fisher, executive director of the Massachusetts branch of the National Association on Mental Illness.

Gov. Romney’s spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, defended the cuts, stating that “any good manager should be able to absorb a 1.1 percent cut through payroll and administration.” He said that budget experts would work with the department to “put forth a more realistic plan” (Boston Globe 11/21/06).

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