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Report Details State’s Healthcare Costs, Access
BOSTON — The Massachusetts healthcare reform law of 2006 set in motion a number of important changes to the healthcare system, which have affected Massachusetts residents, businesses, healthcare providers, and others. Since 2006, the Massachusetts Health Reform Survey (MHRS) has been an important means of monitoring and understanding these impacts. The most recent report, conducted in the fall of 2012, just after passage of the state’s healthcare cost-containment law, brings both good news and signs that warrant concern. As with previous versions of the MHRS, the just-released results of the 2012 survey provide promising evidence that the insurance provisions of the Affordable Care Act, which were modeled after the 2006 Massachusetts law, will improve coverage and access across the nation. However, the 2012 survey also shows that healthcare costs continue to be a burden for many. Massachusetts continues to have the highest rate of insurance coverage for non-elderly adults of any state, 94.6%. This is a significant improvement over 2006, when 85.9% of non-elderly adults had insurance, and much higher than the current national level of 79.7%. In addition, gaps in coverage have lessened: 88% of adults in Massachusetts reported being covered for the entire year, much higher than the national level of just under 75%. The proportion of people in Massachusetts who are “persistently uninsured” has been cut by nearly three-quarters, falling from 9.3% in 2006 to 2.7% in 2012. The survey indicates that respondents are generally satisfied with their healthcare coverage, with about two-thirds rating their coverage as very good or excellent on the range of services, choice of providers, and quality of care, up more than 10% from pre-reform. Access to care is also is very good; nearly nine in 10 respondents reported having a place, other than the emergency room, to go to when they are sick or need advice about their health. This is higher than national estimates for this measure, which top off at around 80%. Use of physician services is also higher in Massachusetts than it is nationally. Eight in 10 non-elderly adults reported having visited a doctor in the past 12 months, compared with 63% nationally. On the issue of affordability, more than 40% of non-elderly adults reported that healthcare costs had been a problem for them and their families over the previous year, including 37.1% who experienced problems with healthcare spending and 16.4% who reported going without needed care because of cost. Having health-insurance coverage did not eliminate cost concerns, as 38.7% of those who were insured for the full year reported that they had problems with healthcare spending. One reason the burden of healthcare costs has not diminished with rising levels of coverage is the continuing trend among employers to shift costs onto workers and their families, such as through high-deductible plans.

Massachusetts Ranks High in Spending Transparency
BOSTON — Massachusetts received an A– grade in government spending transparency according to “Following the Money 2014: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data,” the fifth annual report of its kind by the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MASSPIRG). “We have worked hard to make state government more transparent for taxpayers, and this superb grade from MASSPIRG reflects that,” said Secretary of Administration and Finance Glen Shor. Massachusetts came in at the top of the nation with a grade of 91.5, maintaining it’s A– rating for the third year in a row despite the increasing difficulty of the annual survey as technology improves and consumer expectations rise. The MASSPIRG report designates Massachusetts as a ‘leading state’ in progress toward improved online spending transparency, allowing ordinary citizens to find information through easy-to-use features. The report applauds Massachusetts for increasing transparency by awarding more than $300,000 in grants to six cities to post their spending information online, and planning to help 20 cities post their spending information online by January 2015; posting information on state contracts and bidding opportunities through the state’s checkbook-level procurement website, saving the state $3 million by eliminating paper, postage, and printing costs associated with information requests by state agencies and paperwork from vendors; and improving the state’s transparency website by publishing a report on the Economic Development Incentive Program, which provides recipient-specific details on jobs retained and created. “Given that our grading standards rise annually, earning an A– each year means Massachusetts has demonstrated a significant commitment toward transparency and is continually investing in improvements,” said Andrew Fish, program associate with the MASSPIRG Education Fund. “Gov. Patrick’s commitment to increasing disclosure of the state’s finances allows the public to see how their tax dollars are being invested, promoting both efficiency and accountability.” Patrick’s FY 2015 budget, which was published in a program-based manner and added performance data to the state budget for the first time, aimed to make more spending and performance data available to the public. To read the full report, visit www.masspirg.org.

DevelopSpringfield Issues 1095 Main Street Grant
SPRINGFIELD — DevelopSpringfield announced that it has awarded a $20,000 grant for façade improvements to 1095 Main St., property owned by 1095 Main Street Irrevocable Trust. Building tenants include Square One Family Center and Santos Family Chiropractic. The grant is made possible under DevelopSpringfield’s Corridor Storefront Improvement Program, which provides grants of up to $10,000 per storefront for exterior improvements to first-floor businesses located on State and Main streets in Springfield. The funds were used to revitalize and repair the existing façade and included new windows, doors, and signage. The grant is supporting a substantial investment for improvements to the building by the property owner. “This project represents well over $100,000 in capital improvements to the façade of this building,” said Ralph Capua of 1095 Main Street Irrevocable Trust. “It’s an example of our commitment to bringing business back to the South End, and allows for additional leasing opportunities for prospective business owners.” The project shows a strong commitment to revitalization Springfield’s South End, an area devastated by the June 2011 tornado. Improvements to this structure made it possible for Square One, which lost its site after the tornado and was further displaced by the downtown natural-gas explosion in November 2012, to find a new home. The Square One Family Center celebrated the opening of its 1095 Main St. facility last September.

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