Health Care Reform in Record Time

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If you blinked over the past seven days, you might have missed the rollout of two major pieces of legislation that will dramatically restructure health care delivery here in Massachusetts. While the Governor put his proposal out over a year ago, it has taken the Legislature a long time to take up the issue.

Suddenly, everyone is in a rush. The House rushed their bill out the door at an oddly-timed late Friday afternoon press conference on Friday, May 4th. They plan on debating the bill in a month or so.

The Senate is in even a bigger rush — their bill came out on Wednesday, May 9th. Amendments are due by 5 PM on Friday. And debate begins on Tuesday of next week. Hope Senators can digest all 268 pages in time.

And all this activity will result in a final piece of legislation by the end of July if legislative leaders stick to their stated calendar.

Contrast this highly compressed round of healthcare reform with the 2006 effort — Both the Senate and the Governor had released their bills by April of 2005. The House put forward their bill in October 2005. Then the conference process and negotiations resulted in a bill signing on April 12, 2006, roughly a year after two versions were public and over five months after all versions were public.

This time around there will be dramatic changes to one of our state’s most important industries, healthcare (which accounts for close to 10% of gross state product), in less than three months. And the Legislature will have other major bills dealing with the budget, crime, and economic development (just name a few) to deal with over the same period.

That’s ripe environment for unintended consequences, mischief, and leaving hard decisions to the regulatory or administrative process. Keep a close eye.

Crossposted at Boston Daily.