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State Says Nurse Ballot Question Would Cost More than $600 Million

October 3, 2018

Lowell Sun

By Katie Lannan

State House News Service

BOSTON -- The total annual costs of a ballot question that would limit the number of patients assigned to one nurse would land between $676 million and $949 million, according to a new state analysis that cautioned those figures are likely on the conservative side.

The Health Policy Commission on Wednesday released its findings of a cost study on Question 1, which also found implementing the staffing ratios could save an estimated $34 million to $47 million through the hiring of additional registered nurses.

The commission said 2,286 to 3,101 additional full-time nurses would be required to meet the staffing mandates, with the greatest demand at community hospitals and for night shifts.

Backers of Question 1 took issue with the HPC’s findings, blasting the agency over the data that was used and the process involved.

“This guess on costs by the HPC is irresponsible and inconsistent and resembles nothing that the HPC has ever done before. This estimates a cost of $300k per nurse FTE, per year, and -- like the inflated numbers distributed by hospital executives -- there is no independent data source or transparency in these cost estimates,” Massachusetts Nurses Association Executive Director Julie Pinkham said in a statement early Wednesday morning.

The analysis was led by David Auerbach, the commission’s director for research and cost trends, and University of California San Francisco professor Joanne Spetz, who the commission brought on in August as an outside consultant.

Spetz has studied the effects of the nurse staffing law in California, the only state with mandatory nurse-to-patient ratios in place for all hospital units.

The initiative petition here is more strict than the California law, according to the HPC. Gov. Charlie Baker last week declined to stake out a position on Question 1, saying he was awaiting the HPC’s findings. Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jay Gonzalez supports the question.

For more on this story read Thursday’s Sun or click on http://www.lowellsun.com

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