New analysis projects impact of proposed MGB expansion on health care costs

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New analysis projects impact of proposed MGB expansion on health care costs
A rendering shows the proposed ambulatory care clinic that MGB hopes to build in Westborough. (Photo/Courtesy Mass General Brigham)

REGION – A long awaited independent cost analysis (ICA) says a proposed Mass General Brigham (MGB) clinic in Westborough would lead to a slight decrease in the overall costs for the services offered at the clinic.

That assessment comes as a part of a more than 90 page document produced by the firm Charles River Associates. It, in turn, comes after the state Department of Public Health had required MGB to commission such an analysis as part of its review of MGB’s proposal.

“The predicted changes in Mass General Brigham’s shares in the service areas of the Proposed Ambulatory Care Centers are modest and unlikely to meaningfully change the system’s bargaining leverage with health insurers,” notes an executive summary attached to the analysis.

“Rather, the weight of the economics literature suggests that allowing health care providers to enter an area or expand their presence there lowers health care prices and reduces expenditures on health care services,” the summary continues.

Expansion would add clinic in Westborough

MGB first pitched plans to open a series of new clinics as part of a larger expansion effort earlier this year. 

One such clinic would be built in Westborough, occupying space in the Westborough Office Park off Route 9. 

Local officials in Westborough have supported the project, eventually approving a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) Agreement in September. 

As local and regional backers of MGB’s expansion have argued for its merits, others have raised concerns, discussing fears that a new MGB facility would drive up local health care costs, among other things.

Mass General Brigham reacts to analysis

New analysis projects impact of proposed MGB expansion on health care costs
The recently released independent cost analysis of MGB’s proposed hospital expansion spans more than 90 pages, breaking down a number of factors shaping the expansion’s potential impact on area health care costs. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

MGB responded to the release of this independent cost analysis in a statement on Tuesday. 

“Mass General Brigham’s effort to address two important issues for our patients in Massachusetts: provide greater access to care and reduce their costs is confirmed today by the Independent Cost Analysis,” that statement noted, in part.

The analysis said health care costs could still fluctuate.

Overall, though, it predicted a decrease of at least 0.1 percent in Westborough.

“For these reasons, we believe that the proposed project is consistent with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ health care cost-containment goals,” the analysis concluded.



Opponents of expansion respond

A number of groups opposed to the MGB expansion joined forces earlier this year to form the Coalition to Protect Community Care.

The coalition shared its reaction to this ICA this week in a statement published by State House News Service. 

“By only analyzing how the proposal will affect the costs of MGB’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 ICA 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.

Executives at UMass Memorial – Marlborough Hospital had separately shared their concerns on multiple occasions this year. They specifically noted that they were worried the independent cost analysis would not be broad enough to present a comprehensive picture of the impacts of MGB’s expansion. 

“This review needs to be very broad and needs to look at all of the repercussions,” UMass Memorial Health Care Vice President James Leary said in a conference call with state and local elected officials in October.

As opponents and supporters of the expansion react to this analysis, the Determination of Need process, which evaluates hospital expansions and transactions, remains ongoing. 

“We look forward to moving ahead with the [Determination of Need] 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,” MGB said in its statement.

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