- Associated Press - Monday, September 1, 2014

BOSTON (AP) - Improving the well-being of the state’s health care system could be a difficult prescription to fill for the next governor, given Massachusetts’ rocky effort to merge its 2006 health care law and President Barack Obama’s 2010 federal law. That’s not the only health care challenge the Democratic and Republican candidates are weighing ahead of the Sept. 9 primary:



The Republican and former Harvard Pilgrim Health Care CEO said Massachusetts had a health care system that offered nearly every resident access to high quality care. He said if elected governor, he would fight for a waiver from the federal health law to help protect the state system.

Baker has proposed an initiative he said would improve the quality of health care and reduce cost. One proposal would require health care providers to make their average prices for commonly provided services available to the public.

“My proposals will allow patients to act as informed consumers, prioritize primary care - giving patients with multiple illnesses better treatment - and protect Massachusetts’ health system from federal burdens,” Baker said.



The Democrat and former head of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is the only candidate advocating a single payer system that would guarantee health care for every resident.

Berwick said single payer health care, which he described as “Medicare for all,” is also the best step the state can take to create jobs. He said it would save money by decoupling health care from employment.

“The result will be a simpler, more transparent, publicly accountable care system that improves the quality of care and returns resources to businesses, workers, and state and local governments,” Berwick said.



The Democrat and attorney general said if elected governor she would push to improve mental and behavioral health services in Massachusetts.

Coakley, who lost her brother to suicide after a struggle with mental health, said she would work to increase reimbursement rates for mental health care.

“One of the great barriers to that care is the disparity in insurance coverage for mental health services,” she said.

Coakley also helped craft the state’s new law addressing protests outside abortion clinics, but she was criticized over an agreement her office hammered out with Partners HealthCare to resolve an antitrust investigation.



The tea party-affiliated Republican and businessman said while every other candidate in the race believes health care is a right, he believes it is a privilege and something an individual should be able to refuse.

“Freedom-loving Americans do not want government controlled health care,” Fisher said.

If elected, Fisher said he would instead push for more competition in the marketplace to drive down insurance costs by allowing providers to compete across state lines.

Fisher also said insurance costs could be lowered if plans only covered costly services like surgeries and hospitalizations instead of more routine care.



The Democrat and state treasurer has proposed a behavioral health care plan he said would bring services and resources to residents struggling with mental health and addiction.

Grossman’s plan would also increase drug awareness and mental health programs for middle school and high school students and reduce emergency room wait times for acute psychiatric care.

“Government has a critical role to play in providing our most vulnerable residents with the care and treatment they need,” Grossman said.

Grossman has criticized Coakley’s agreement with Partners by saying it will increase health care spending, reduce competition and drive up premiums.

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