Once again, an important matter (Massachusetts Ballot Question #1) comes before us with assertions and incomplete resources for the average voter to evaluate. In the present case, an initiative petition recommends a mandate in state law that “would limit the number of patients that could be assigned to one registered nurse in hospitals and certain other health care facilities”(Massachusetts Information for Voters 2018 Ballot Questions booklet).
Those in favor of such a staffing standard suggest that it would cost $47 million per year to implement, while those opposed say the real cost is more like $1.3 billion. Fortunately, as the result of a state law passed in 2012 (Health Care Cost Containment Law of 2012, Chapter 224 of the Acts of 2012), we do have something to look at. Recently the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission (created by the Acts 0f 2012) has estimated an implementation cost of $676-$949 million per year.
I am sure that because I am not a big number-cruncher, I may not be getting this correct, however, if you take the middle ($812 million) of MHPC’s range and divide it by the total amount we will spend on health care in 2018 ($63.3 Billion, estimated from the MHPC’s March 2018 report), you get 1.3 percent.
So, the real question before us relates to the values and cost to the proposed measure; “Is maximum safe patient staffing claimed by nurses worth 1.3 percent?”
James T. Griffith, Ph.D., CLS (NCA)