CONCORD – Senators and health care advocates celebrated today as Governor John Lynch signed two bills to launch major studies of rising health insurance premiums and health care costs in New Hampshire.
Senate Bill 505 creates the Commission on Health Care Cost Containment, which will be charged with looking at the health care reimbursement system, including the impact of federal health care reform, options for implementing a common payment system and ways to encourage the use of incentives to improve quality and efficiency. It’s required to report on its findings by July 1, 2012.
Senate Bill 392 requires the insurance commissioner to hold public hearings annually to identify factors contributing to increases in health insurance premiums and to take a close look at price variations and the reasons behind the differences in costs among different providers and hospitals. The insurance commissioner will issue a report and recommendations each year after hearing testimony and analyzing the data.
Senate Bill 392 also sets a limit to what uninsured patients can be charged for hospital services. The sum can be no greater than the average received by that hospital from patients covered by health maintenance organizations. It was sponsored by Senator Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth).
“These initiatives will provide us with the research and data we need so that state policy makers can understand what’s driving our health care costs and take steps to contain costs without affecting quality. New Hampshire ranks 48th highest out of 50 states in premium costs for family coverage and costs continue to rise faster than family income. This is not sustainable for our families or our businesses,” said Senator Maggie Hassan (D-Exeter), sponsor of Senate Bill 505.
Both initiatives are intended to dovetail with the governor’s pilot program establishing accountable care organizations at five locations in the state. Lynch today called rising health care costs “a defining issue” for New Hampshire and one that makes it harder for businesses to add jobs.