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Mass. health reform not cited as reason for high hospital costs: study


By Melanie Evans
Posted: March 16, 2010 - 9:45 am ET
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Massachusetts hospitals spent roughly 55% more per person than the average U.S. hospital in 2007, though not as a result of the state's health reform, according to a newly released study.

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Hospital expenses in Massachusetts, which reached $3,015 per person in 2007, have consistently exceeded the national average, which was $1,941 per person that year, a difference that amounts to $6.9 billion for the state. The study by two Boston University health policy researchers said fast-growing hospital costs in Massachusetts, not slower expense growth at U.S. hospitals, fueled a widening gap between Massachusetts and the nation. Researchers used Census Bureau and American Hospital Association figures in the analysis.

Since 1997, Massachusetts’ hospital cost growth has outpaced the national average in all but two years, with the most significant jump in 2006, the year the state passed its health reform law to significantly expand insurance coverage. But, researchers said, the law had little time to take effect before hospitals' closed their books on fiscal 2006 and Massachusetts’ hospital spending growth slowed in 2007 despite a 5.7% increase in the state's insured.

Heavy reliance on teaching hospitals, a high doctors-to-population ratio and high surgery rates could be among the factors that contribute to Massachusetts' higher hospital expenses, according to the study.

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