Boston.com is reporting the Governor Deval Patrick today will sign the first-in-the-nation Health Care Cost Containment bill that was passed by the legislature at the end of July. The Act, Senate Bill 2526, is complex and far reaching and attempts to transform the way health care providers are paid, switching from a fee for service model that gives financial incentives for excessive treatment and testing to a “universal payment” approach that rewards preventative care.
Just as the Commonwealth became a national model for universal health care when President Obama adopted the system developed in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney (sorry, I couldn’t resist), the eyes of the nation are on Massachusetts on the issue of cost containment, as well. Yesterday’s lead editorial in the New York Times fully discussed the opportunities and challenges posed as this bill goes into effect.
Whether it’s a consequence of this cost containment bill or just a natural outgrowth of a more progressive, innovative approach to health care in this state, Friday’s mail brought an envelope from Tufts Health Plan, my health insurer provider. Inside was not a notice of a rate increase or a new surcharge. Instead it was a refrigerator magnet and a letter of explanation. The insurer has established the “Tufts Health Plan Nurse24” nurse line which is free, voluntary and confidential to those with Tufts insurance. The toll free number is staffed 24/7 and the nurses who answer the phone can offer information on things like home treatment of minor illness and injury, when to call a doctor, how to prepare for doctor visits, how to make wise decisions on tests, medications and procedures, understanding your prescriptions, and how to make lifestyle choices to improve your health.
Fortunately, I haven’t had to call the number since receiving it on Friday, but the magnet is already on my refrigerator. The internet is still available as a health care research tool, but it certainly will be nice to be able to pick up the phone and talk to someone when a non-emergency health care issue arises.