WHEN THE national health care company Optum acquired Massachusetts-based Atrius Health last year, the deal set the stage for the emergence of the state’s third conversion foundation.
A conversion foundation is the byproduct when a for-profit health care company (Optum) buys a nonprofit (Atrius). A chunk of the sale price, in this case $236 million, goes toward a foundation that fulfills some of the original nonprofit’s goals.
The new foundation – the Atrius Health Equity Foundation – is expected to be up and running soon and its emergence is casting a spotlight on the state’s first two conversion foundations, which were formed in the late 1990s.
Amie Shei, president and CEO of the Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts, and Martin Cohen, president and CEO of MetroWest Health Foundation, talked about some of the achievements of their organizations on The Codcast with John McDonough of the T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Paul Hattis of the Lown Institute. (They also co-authored a commentary piece in CommonWealth.)
Shei said the Health Foundation, which is focused on the Worcester area, has handed out $52 million in grants to 220 unique organizations.
One of its earlier initiatives addressed an unusually high rate of pre-school expulsions in Worcester by launching behavioral health interventions to help children adapt. Shei said success in Worcester paved the way for an initiative covering all of Massachusetts funded by the state.
Shei said the foundation is also lobbying for legislation to extend state regulations covering public water supplies to private wells that provide the bulk of drinking water in more rural areas of Massachusetts.
Cohen said an early focus of his foundation was the opening of a community health center in Framingham which is called the Edward M. Kennedy Health Center. A second has been added in Milford, he said.
He said the foundation was the lead funder in 2003 of a program of the Framingham Police Department to send behavioral health experts on police calls to help divert people for treatment who previously might have ended up in jail. He said that program has now been replicated in 37 communities across the state.
Cohen also takes pride in an adolescent health survey of 42,000 public school students that provides useful information for policymakers. He noted the survey provided evidence that Needham’s decision to raise the age requirement for purchasing tobacco products to 21 was reducing smoking. That evidence helped pave the way for other communities in Massachusetts and New York City to raise their age requirement for tobacco products.
Both Shei and Cohen said they think Massachusetts should join California, New Mexico, and other states that are providing health insurance for undocumented immigrants. Legislation to provide the insurance has been filed on Beacon Hill.
“I would certainly see it as a benefit to residents in our area,” Cohen said.
McDonough asked if the two nonprofit leaders have a preference for non-profit or for-profit health care providers.
Shei didn’t answer directly, instead focusing on why some nonprofit providers are being absorbed by for-profit competitors. “I see the conversion as an inevitable result of consolidation and other changes in the health care marketplace that rendered it difficult for smaller nonprofit health care entities to remain independent and viable,” she said.
Cohen said the difference doesn’t matter much when it comes to care but may affect what role the provider plays in the local community.
“I don’t think the question is really one of tax status,” he said. “I don’t think anyone in the middle of the night thinks about am I going to go to a for-profit or a not-for-profit hospital. The question is commitment to things other than the bottom line.”
He said the closing of nonprofit health care providers has had an impact in local communities. “I think there is something that has been lost, and that’s the concept of the hospital as being part of a larger community,” he said.
GLX rescuer leaving: John Dalton, the MBTA contractor who steered the troubled Green Line extension to Somerville and Medford to completion, is leaving the transit authority at the end of February for a new undisclosed job. Read more.
Santiago to veterans’ services: Gov. Maura Healey taps Rep. Jon Santiago of Boston as her secretary of veterans’ services. Santiago wears many hats; he is also an emergency room physician and a major in the US Army Reserve. Read more.
Drugs and mental illness: Carol Erskine, the recently retired First Justice of the Worcester County Juvenile Court, said the Lindsay Clancy case (the Duxbury mother accused of murdering her children) brings back memories of her time on the bench when children were routinely over-medicated because of the “reckless indifference of prescribing psychiatrists.” Read more.
Hold off on GM search: Jim Aloisi, the former state transportation secretary and TransitMatters board member, urges Gov. Maura Healey to put off temporarily the hiring of a new general manager at the MBTA and instead focus on addressing financial and staffing issues that would make the job an easier sell.
– Aloisi also says the interim GM, Jeffrey Gonneville, can run the T well for the time being. Read more.
Part of a family: Talya Neva-Hacohen, the chief investment officer at Sabra Health Care REIT, applauds direct care workers at MAB Community Services for making her sister feel part of a family. Read more.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
Gov. Maura Healey, who has bounced around in her position on having the state’s Public Records Law apply to her office, refused a Boston Globe request for emails and telephone logs, with her office saying complying would “unreasonably hinder the governor in effectively performing her duties.”
State auditors find $2.7 million of welfare fraud in the final three months of 2022. (Eagle-Tribune)
The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation releases a report that it says can serve as a blueprint for the tax reform proposal Gov. Maura Healey has vowed to release next month. (Boston Herald)
Sen. Jo Comerford of Northampton holds a briefing on her End of Life Options Act, which she hopes to see passed this session. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
Some lawmakers are pushing legislation to create a “Day of Remembrance” for those who died from the coronavirus. (Salem News)
The Greater Boston Real Estate Board said it will spend close to $400,000 – initially – on a direct mail and digital outreach campaign to defeat Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s rent control proposal. (Boston Globe)
Framingham Democratic Committee chairman Michael Hugo has issued an apology after blowback from comments referencing undetected birth defects and the cost of supporting special needs children. (MetroWest Daily News)
Northampton is moving ahead with plans to create a climate action department to help the city reach its goals. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
Great Barrington is eyeing a real estate transfer tax and a tax break for landlords who keep their rents reasonable to increase the amount of housing. (Berkshire Eagle)
The Hampshire Regional YMCA is looking to build an open-air gym of sorts to make members nervous about the coronavirus feel more comfortable as they exercise. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
President Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv over the weekend to show American support for Ukraine’s war effort against Russia. (New York Times)
Former president Jimmy Carter, at age 98 the longest living president in US history, who has experienced a series of health issues in recent years, has opted to forego further treatments and receive hospice care at his home in Plains, Georgia. (New York Times)
The Globe takes stock of the net outmigration of 110,000 Massachusetts residents since the onset of the pandemic, with housing costs a main driver of the exodus. The story carried an eerie echo of similar concerns voiced almost two decades ago and spotlighted in this CommonWealth article.
The nonprofit Chinatown Community Land Trust buys properties and resells them at lower prices to keep them affordable for local residents, but it’s getting tougher and tougher. (WBUR)
A dire cash shortage has left the Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee warning of a “fiscal cliff” ahead, with full time cuts expected and a push to encourage retirements this summer. (MassLive)
Scientists in Connecticut and Massachusetts are using “biocontrol agents” – a wasp imported from Russia – to combat emerald ash borers. (WBUR)
Wind energy supporters and whale advocates say an attempt to tie Atlantic Coast whale deaths to offshore wind power is speculative and likely misleading. (Cape Cod Times)
Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy takes some shots at Red Sox (and Boston Globe) owner John Henry for not holding a live Q&A session with reporters at the Red Sox spring training site in Florida. Henry said he’d only answer questions by email – but then stiffed his own paper, answering questions from two other outlets by Sunday but still not responding to the Globe as of Monday evening.
Tony Massarroti of the Sports Hub radio station apologizes for remarks he made on-air on Friday about two Black men sitting behind a cohost. “The last time you were around a couple of guys like that, they stole your car,” he said. (Media Nation)