Baker: Forced Investments Will Reduce Total Health Care Costs

Compelling greater investments in behavioral health and addiction treatment services figures to be a main tent pole in a health care bill that the Baker administration plans to put before the Legislature in the coming months, Gov. Charlie Baker suggested Wednesday morning.

Speaking to a virtual conference of the Providers’ Council, the governor said his administration plans this budget year to “continue our commitment to increasing access to behavioral health services, which I think everybody would agree coming out of this pandemic are a bigger and more important issue than they’ve ever been before.”

Then, for the second time in about a month, he recounted his 2019 health care bill that was never seriously considered once the pandemic set in.

The legislation Baker filed in October 2019 would have required, among other things, that health care providers and insurers boost spending on addiction services, behavioral health, primary care and geriatric services by 30 percent over three years.

“We continue to believe that these are areas that, for a bunch of reasons, many of which are driven by federal policy, are underinvested in and we need to do a much better job of recognizing and appreciating that investments in those areas not only improve the quality of care for people, but in many cases will also reduce the total cost of care because they’re designed to help people stay healthy,” Baker said Wednesday morning in his remarks to the Providers’ Council.

Last month, the governor recalled the same 2019 bill and said that his administration is “going to go back at this one” in a sweeping health care bill he expects to file by early next year.

When he signed last session’s health care law, which included a few of the policies he proposed in October 2019, Baker told the News Service that he expected to return after the pandemic to “some of these issues that were probably too big and too complicated to deal with in the context of what the last year was like.”

Legislators are interested in tackling health care, but their level of interest in Baker’s ideas remains to be seen. Senate President Karen Spilka named mental health parity legislation as one of the items on her fall agenda and House Speaker Ronald Mariano has said he’ll be looking to pursue “a number of different health care issues” this session. – Colin A. Young/SHNS