Nov 1, 2023 - Politics

Mass. lawmakers target health care costs

Photo illustration of Massachusetts Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ron Mariano with lines radiating from them.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Pat Greenhouse and Carlin Stiehl/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

As they reach the halfway point of their session, the state House and Senate are taking different paths to improve and lower the cost of health care for Massachusetts residents, a divide in strategy that's led to political logjams and inaction in the past.

What's happening: Democratic leaders of both branches say they'll consider their counterparts' bills this session, meaning compromises on prescription drug prices and long-term care could reach Gov. Maura Healey's desk by the summer.

Why it matters: Experts have warned that spending on health care in Massachusetts has spiraled out of control.

  • Commercial health care spending rose more than 5% each year between 2019 and 2021, far outpacing the national growth rate and income growth.
  • Nursing home care in Massachusetts costs over 40% more than the national average.

Zoom in: To help combat some of the increasing costs, the Senate has been trying for the last two sessions to create prescription drug price controls and to regulate the pharmacy benefit managers that negotiate prices.

Meanwhile, House leaders are preparing to pass legislation creating new oversight systems at long-term and senior care facilities.

  • The package includes tuition reimbursement and job training programs to attract more workers to the long-term care industry.

The intrigue: In previous sessions, the House has not taken up the Senate's bills. Likewise, the Senate has ignored the House's priority bills to reign in and regulate large hospital chains that compete with community hospitals.

  • House Speaker Ron Mariano has indicated that this year could be different and the House is willing to engage with the Senate on prescription prices.
  • Mariano plans to hold a House vote on hospital reforms next year.

Reality check: Legislators have until the start of their holiday break Nov. 15 to finish work on their own bills and hand them off for the other chamber to consider. Compromises and final passage would come next year.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Boston.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Boston stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Boston.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more