Cost of Ratios: $1.3 Billion in First Year

While caregivers at last Monday’s State House hearing on ratios clearly laid out the negative patient-care consequences of government-mandated nurse staffing ratios, another anti-ratio argument – their outrageous annual cost – was discussed.

Previous to the hearing, an independent study of mandated nurse staffing ratios found that the proposed ballot question will conservatively cost the state’s healthcare system $1.31 billion in the first year, and $900 million annually thereafter.  Those costs are in addition to approximately $100 million in direct state spending.

The study, conducted by Mass Insight Global Partnerships and BW Research Partnership, found that a “one-size-fits-all statewide implementation will be a costly and poor allocation of resources, leading to greater inequity in the delivery of care, less local access to healthcare, and reduced patient choice.” Ultimately, the proposal is likely unfeasible, the study concludes.

MHA had earlier concluded that, according to financial data filed with the state, 14 Massachusetts hospitals in Fiscal Year 2016 had negative operating margins. If the ratio ballot question had been in effect at the time, an additional 25 hospitals would have had negative operating margins and some of those may have been forced to close or severely cut back services.

The study from Mass Insight Global Partnerships and BW Research Partnership found that the ratio question will affect some regions of the state more than others. Communities outside of Boston and Worcester, such as the Cape and Islands, MetroWest, and Western Massachusetts are all at risk of losing entire facilities, according to the report, which added that local physician groups also will lose funding, further exacerbating the shortage of primary care options.

The complete study is on the Mass Insight Global Partnerships website here.