Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Deval Patrick: Massachusetts Health Care Law Signed

A few days ago, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law one of the nation's strictest limits on gifts given to medical professionals by drug salespeople. Applauded by some and excoriated by others, the law attempts to curtail the influence of marketing in health care.

Hitting another health care issue near and dear to our hearts here at Health Care Reform Now!, it also supplies $25 million to promote the transition to electronic medical records. Other sections of the law give regulators the power to hold hearings over rises in health insurance premiums and also require the state university to increase the size of its classes in order to produce more primary care doctors.

Despite having more doctors per capita than anywhere else in the country, Massachusetts is still facing a shortage -- one predicted to worsen as more people gain insurance and enter the health care equation. This is a critical aspect of the big picture since primary care doctors are the ones who make the initial care decisions.

Still, with all the variety of measures embraced, the one which is causing the most stir is the limit on corporate gift giving. The pharmaceutical industry's trade group Pharma has stated that lawmakers could regret their efforts, citing the fact that it would create a chilling effect on researchers if their research grants were posted on a public listing of industry gifts.

Via Scott Allen at The Boston Globe:

[Sen. Mark] Montigny [New Bedford Democrat] had hoped that, after failing twice, he might succeed in banning gift-giving between salespeople and healthcare professionals altogether. However, representatives of the drug and medical device industry successfully argued that the measure went too far, potentially banning money paid to doctors and hospitals to conduct medical research. Though the Senate passed the full ban, the House backed only restrictions.

Still, the limits in the law put Massachusetts at the forefront of states in cracking down on the use of financial incentives to persuade doctors to prescribe particular drugs or medical devices. In addition to banning some gifts and requiring disclosure of others, it calls for the state to develop a code of conduct for industry representatives that includes a $5,000 fine for each violation.

The great experiment of Massachusetts continues!

SOURCE: "Leaders nip, tuck healthcare policy - Limits enacted on drug firm gifts" 08/11/08
photo courtesy of limako used under its Creative Commons license

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