DANVERS — Amid talk of soaring Bay State health care costs and uncertainty about the Affordable Care Act, the head of Lahey Health told North Shore business leaders that people need to consider their community hospitals before heading to Boston for care.
Lahey Health President and CEO Dr. Howard Grant spoke to a packed ballroom of business leaders Wednesday morning at the North Shore Chamber of Commerce’s Health Care Breakfast at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel.
Grant noted that health care costs are the No. 1 concern of business leaders, in a state that he said has one of the finest health care systems around — and one of the most expensive.
The Lahey CEO also addressed Monday’s announcement that the boards of Lahey and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have signed a letter of intent to explore combining the two health care systems. While Grant did not give specifics, he gave a general timeline for the merger.
“It’s something that we are really excited about,” he said. “It’s not something that will happen overnight. We will go through a considerable amount of due diligence over the next three or four months, and then there will be a long regulatory process for another year or so after that.”
Grant said both organizations were committed to what he called a “high value model. We believe there is an opportunity to sustain the quality of care that exists in Massachusetts today without compromising quality and lowering your costs over time. I think we are capable of doing that.”
The process will require state and federal approvals.
Lahey Health represents the 2012 merger of Northeast Health System and Lahey Clinic Foundation. On the North Shore, this includes Beverly Hospital, Lahey Medical Center in Peabody, Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester and Lahey Outpatient Center in Danvers.
Health care costs ‘unsustainable’
Calling the cost of health care in Massachusetts “unsustainable,” Grant said the cost is 36 percent higher here than the national average. A large part of the problem is that people prefer to go to higher cost teaching hospitals in Boston, making it harder to sustain community hospitals.
About 40 percent of Medicare discharges happen at downtown academic medical centers in Massachusetts, Grant said, compared with a 16-percent national average. A procedure in Boston can cost double or triple what it would cost at a community hospital.