Proposed Mass General Brigham expansion worries Marlborough officials

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By Vicki Greene, Contributing Writer

Marlborough Hospital executives are currently worried a proposed MGB clinic in Westborough could disrupt their business and prompt rate hikes for patients. (Photo by/Dakota Antelman)

Marlborough – UMass Marlborough Hospital has been serving area residents for 130 years, whether they have insurance or not. It wants to continue to do so.

Now, though, hospital leaders and city officials alike are concerned a proposed Mass General Brigham (MGB) facility to be built on Route 9 in Westborough could lead to a spike in health care costs.

Marlborough Hospital executives fear rate hikes

MGB is eyeing a spot off Route 9 in Westborough as one of several locations across Massachusetts to build new ambulatory care clinics. If constructed, that Westborough facility would sit just six miles from Marlborough Hospital.

As one of the largest hospital systems in the state, MGB also boasts a high cost of care, UMass Memorial Health Care Vice President James Leary told the City Council, March 8,

That’s a point of concern.

“[MGB] has the highest costs in the state,” Leary told the City Council. “[That] will drive up costs at Marlborough and UMass Memorial Worcester, which have the lowest costs.”

Insurance inequities raise budgetary questions

Leary’s Marlborough Hospital, indeed, frames itself as a “safety net” facility

In that identity, Leary told the City Council that 64 percent of his hospital’s patients arrive either with Medicare, Mass Health/Medicaid or no insurance altogether. Marlborough Hospital delivers service to those patients, but only receives between 60 to 65 cents for every dollar billed to Medicaid compared to other insurances, Leary said.

“It is critically important that patients on commercial plans continue to receive care at Marlborough Hospital to keep the budget in balance and costs in check,” Leary then concluded.

With this new MGB proposal, though, Marlborough Hospital might not be able to rely on such a public/private insurance balance.

Leary noted that the MGB facility will not be close to any public transportation. That could mean local patients with cars and the means to travel might be able to make a move to MGB to get care there. Meanwhile those without transportation, who disproportionately utilize public insurance options, might stay in Marlborough.

City officials hear concerns

Discussing all this, March 8, Marlborough Mayor Arthur Vigeant and the City Council formally called on the state Department of Public Health to “closely scrutinize” the impacts on costs and health care equity Marlborough Hospital executives worry MGB’s proposal could have.

“This will impact our residents as well as Marlborough businesses who provide healthcare to their employees,” Vigeant wrote in a March 4th letter to the City Council.

In formalizing their resolution for the Department of Public Health, Marlborough is registering as a “Ten Taxpayer Group.” This will let the city “participate in DPH proceedings on this project application,” according to Vigeant’s letter.