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Rob Eno: The Fight Against Government Takeover of Healthcare Costs

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

 

As you’ve driven down Central Massachusetts’ main highway, route 290, over the past few months, you’ve no doubt seen the sign for St. Vincent Hospital touting its high rankings.  

As citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we are blessed with world leading hospitals.  Even here in Worcester County we have two above average institutions in St. Vincent's and UMass Memorial.  Recent actions by a Massachusetts Democrat controlled legislature have put the quality of our care in jeopardy, despite the opposition of the majority of Central Massachusetts’ Republican legislators.

In the final weeks of the latest legislative session, the Legislature passed a bill granting the government the power to regulate the cost of health care delivery. The bill does this in a variety of ways, including price controls on services, and telling hospitals how their budgets must be run. It taxes good hospitals like UMass Memorial and redistributes the money to hospitals with lower quality of care in the name of parity. The bill is so onerous that the normally apolitical Boston Business Journal called it “Soviet-Style”.  

Upon original passage, only seven members of the legislature voted against the bill.  All of them were Republicans and four of them represent Central Massachusetts. Voting against the bill initially were, Steven Levy (R-Marlborough), Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton), Kevin Kuros (R-Uxbridge), and Rich Bastien (R-Gardner).  These four worked tirelessly to bring the majority of the Republican delegation on board against final passage, including all of Central Massachusetts’ Republicans except two.  Joining the original four in voting against the bill were: Matt Beaton (R-Shrewsbury), Kim Ferguson (R-Holden),  Peter Durant (R-Spencer) and Sheila Harrington (R-Groton). The two Central Massachusetts Republicans who voted for price controls were Assistant Minority Leader George Peterson (R-Grafton) and Paul Frost (R-Auburn).  

The immediate results of this bill becoming law have been disastrous for the healthcare community in Massachusetts. Within hours of Governor Deval Patrick signing this legislation, Moody’s gave a downward outlook on every hospital in Massachusetts. The pain doesn’t stop there, however. Our leading hospitals are now laying off workers in order to comply with the cost constraints of the new law. This includes Children’s Hospital in Boston, and UMass Memorial in Worcester. UMass Memorial cited the cost containment legislation as one of the reasons for their layoffs.  

Republicans offered an alternative plan focused on more competition that would have driven down costs, without government intervention. The Democratic legislature didn’t even consider them.  

What are these brave legislators who stood up against government toying with the quality of our care now getting? Negative mailers sent out against them, claiming that they voted against all sorts of preventative care for women because they didn’t support price-controls and the deterioration of care. When you get one of these mailers at your house, think twice about what that vote was really about.

It’s time to move our state away from its continuing lurch towards big government, and to elect more reform minded individuals whose first impulse is not to have government “solve” every problem. Think of that when you enter the voting booth on November 6, 2012.

 

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