Mass General Brigham encouraged by cost analysis of $224M ASC plan

An analysis of Boston-based Mass General Brigham's three planned ASCs forecasts a reduction in healthcare spending for the services they would offer, but opponents of the project argue the analysis omits key details, the Telegram & Gazette reported Jan. 3.

The $224 million project, part of a wider expansion of the health system, would build ASCs in Westborough and Woburn and expand a surgery center in Westwood, Mass.

"The three proposed projects will allow Mass General Brigham to provide high-quality care to our patients, closer to their homes, at lower cost," the health system said in a statement, according to the Boston Business Journal. "We look forward to moving ahead with the DoN process, because now more than ever, Mass General Brigham patients want and need more access to health care, closer to their homes, at lower cost."

The health system argues the suburban expansion would offer services at a lower cost compared to its academic medical centers and avoid patients having to travel to Boston, but healthcare organizations and groups against the expansion say that Mass General Brigham would take commercially insured patients away from community hospitals that are already operating on tight margins.

In late December, Boston-based Charles River Associates published an analysis of the three ASCs and their potential effects on pricing and competition for healthcare services, as directed by the state's determination of need program.

The report found that the proposed ASCs are "unlikely to meaningfully change the system's bargaining leverage with health insurers" in the areas and would, on average, "reduce expenditures on outpatient diagnostic imaging services and outpatient surgical services for patients who switch to receiving care at the proposed ambulatory care centers," according to the Telegram & Gazette.

But the Coalition to Protect Community Care, formed by groups opposing the project, criticized the analysis for a lack of scrutiny in relation to cost impact, community demand and health equity in areas where Mass General Brigham plans to expand.

"By only analyzing how the proposal will affect the costs of [Mass General Brigham's] present patient panel and ignoring cost drivers, such as the recruitment of commercially insured patients from low-cost providers and increased referrals to the state's most expensive doctors and hospitals, the [independent cost analysis] inadequately examines long-term implications for the entire state and leaves residents of the commonwealth with an incomplete picture of how this ill-advised proposal would alter the state's healthcare landscape," a coalition spokesperson said.

Massachusetts' Department of Public Health said it will consider the analyses and comments in its review. Government agencies and taxpayer groups weighing in on the analyses have until Jan. 27 to do so, according to the report.

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