massachusetts general hospital, mass general, boston hospitals
Mass. hospital readmission rates increased in 2014 and 2015, while the national average fell. Photo: Nicolaus Czarnecki

Massachusetts could save more than $1 billion in health care costs over five years if policymakers and health care leaders can cut hospital readmission rates 20 percent by 2020, according to data presented at a Health Policy Commission meeting Wednesday.

 

Hospital readmission rates increased in 2014 and 2015 in Massachusetts while the national average has been falling, according to the commission, whose staff recommended areas where savings could be found in health care spending.

 

A 2012 state law set a target rate against which to measure the annual growth in medical spending, in hopes of reining in rising costs that are leaving less to spend on budget priorities for families, businesses and state government.

 

The law calls for the benchmark for 2019 to be set at 3.1 percent, and the commission held a hearing Wednesday as it prepares to decide whether to keep the target at that level or suggest increasing it to 3.6 percent. Overall growth in 2016 was 2.8 percent.

 

Other scenarios presented at the hearing include reducing the non-emergency use of hospital emergency departments by 66 percent, which the commission estimated could save $260 million over five years, and reducing hospital discharges to post-acute institutional settings by 25 percent, estimated to save $1.37 billion over five years.

 

House lawmakers are a bill that Rep. Jeffrey Roy said it will maximize the structures put in place by past health care cost control laws and continue to move the state forward. He said the House will take up the bill "later this spring."

The House vice chair of the Health Care Financing Committee, Roy said health care spending in Massachusetts is "trending in the right direction, growing at a slower rate than any other state."