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Editorial

The rumors started circulating last fall: The YMCA of Greater Springfield was moving many of its operations into Tower Square in the heart of downtown Springfield.

Soon, the rumors moved to a different plane, a strange one, a place between rumor and fact, where the move was assumed, a proverbial worst-kept secret, but not yet official. And then, it moved to a still-higher level as buildout work began at Tower Square, in earnest, a few weeks ago.

Now the move is official (it was announced late last week), and thus the speculation about what all this means — for the Y, Tower Square, downtown, and the city itself — also escalates to a higher plane.

Suffice it to say this is an intriguing move, one taken out of what amounts to necessity for the Y, which has been facing a number of challenges ranging from declining membership in its fitness center in Springfield to the rising cost of operating and maintaining its nearly half-century-old property on Chestnut Street.

Something needed to happen to give the Y some financial flexibility, some additional visibility, and a chance to grow its programs. Meanwhile, something also needed to happen for the new ownership of Tower Square, which was looking to not only put some vacant space back to revenue-generating use, but also give the facility a spark in terms of everything from foot traffic to much-needed momentum.

It took a while, but the parties came together and came to a deal, one that could substantially alter the fortunes of both entities.

But there are many questions about this move and whether it is going to work for either the Y or Tower Square.

“Something needed to happen to give the Y some financial flexibility, some additional visibility, and a chance to grow its programs. Meanwhile, something also needed to happen for the new ownership of Tower Square …”

Let’s start with the Y. There are already two other health clubs in the heart of downtown and another on the riverfront just a few blocks away. Meanwhile, the Y’s Chestnut Street facility is only a half-mile from Tower Square. So there are naturally questions about whether this move will generate a boost in membership.

Likewise, there are questions, and many of them, about whether Tower Square is the ideal location for Y’s daycare facilities, which are, at this moment in time, its strongest revenue-producing operation. At times, it isn’t easy to get into and out of downtown, and parking will certainly be an issue.

As for Tower Square, the need to fill the large amounts of unused or underutilized space is acute. But are daycare operations and a fitness facility the best use of that space?

Yet, amid all the questions and uncertainty, one thing is clear: this is a bold move for both entities, one that shows large doses of imagination and outside-the-box thinking. And this is what’s needed at both the Y and Tower Square at this time.

Flash back four decades or so, and both were thriving. The Y’s building had recently opened, its membership was large and growing, and the day when there would be gym — or two or three or eight — in every community was still a few decades off. As for Tower Square, it was crammed with thriving retail — clothing stores, record stores, a sporting-goods store, a bookstore, Friendly’s, and much more.

That was then. It seems like a long time ago, because it is. This is now. There is no turning back the clock for either organization, but the clock can be turned forward.

No one really knows if all this is going to work out, but what is known is that neither entity could stand still and simply hope for better days. This move constitutes risk for both parties, a roll of the dice, if you will. But it’s a risk worth taking to secure a better future for both.

Opinion

Opinion

‘Turmoil’ was already the best word to describe the scene at Hampshire College. And then things got even worse — maybe — with the resignation of president Miriam Nelson (it was announced April 5) and several board members over the past few weeks.

The college is now being led by one of its founders, Ken Rosenthal, and its future is cluttered by even more question marks than there were just a month ago — if that’s possible.

But even as the chaos has escalated, troubled Hampshire, facing huge deficits resulting from sharp declines in enrollment, seems to be in a better place.

We’ll explain. For months, Nelson talked of forging some kind of partnership with another college or university, something akin to arrangements that have helped rescue some other smaller private institutions.

When BusinessWest spoke with Nelson several weeks ago, she talked enthusiastically about finding a partner that could help provide some financial stability but also enable the college to retain some form of independence and still be, well, Hampshire College.

We listened to what she was saying, but with a great deal of skepticism. How could there be a partnership in which Hampshire remained the proudly alternative school that it has been for the past half-century? The quick answer is that there couldn’t be such a partnership.

The students on campus could see this. Alums could see this. Parents of students could see this. That’s why Nelson’s plans were received with not only skepticism but criticism and anger.

As she resigned, she said she had become a distraction from the “important work to establish a sustainable financial model for the school.” And in many ways, she had, although, to be fair, she inherited a serious problem for which there are no easy answers.

Her decisions to seek a partner and later not to accept a full class for next fall polarized the campus in some respects, but it also unified in one important way, we believe.

And that is that some form of consensus may have emerged — that saving a college isn’t the mission here; saving Hampshire College is the mission. There is still some division over what needs to be done, but it seems clear that most students and alums would prefer that, if Hampshire is to survive, it is to survive as an independent institution pledged to continue its unique style and operating flavor.

This was the vote taken by the board of trustees as they were also voting to install Rosenthal as interim president.

Whether the school can raise the money it will take to remain independent and continue operating remains to be seen. The deficits are large, and the problems facing Hampshire and other small private schools are very real.

But it seems that the school and its trustees are resolved to doing things the ‘Hampshire way,’ for lack of a better term, and thus there is perhaps reason for a little optimism amid all this turmoil.

Opinion

Editorial

They called the event ‘The New Wave’ — and that’s an appropriate name for the annual update on Springfield’s business and civic projects.

Staged by the city in partnership with the Springfield Regional Chamber, this annual late-winter event, the latest installment of which was staged recently at the Basketball Hall of Fame, has had several names over the years, most of them rail-oriented — to coincide with the long-awaited revitalization of Union Station and also to provide plays on words such as the city being on the proverbial ‘right track.’

Most just call this the ‘update meeting,’ and they’ve been staged for maybe six or seven years now. That timeline coincides with Kevin Kennedy’s arrival as the city’s chief Economic Development officer and his more aggressive approach to telling the city’s story. It’s also a stretch when there has been a much better story to tell.

Which brings us back to the title of this year’s presentation. What’s been happening in Springfield over the past several years can truly be described as a wave — a $4.19 billion wave that is gathering momentum, and riders, as it moves.

That number conveys the dollar value of business and civic projects since that fateful day in 2011 when a tornado roared through the city. It’s an impressive number that, of course, includes MGM Springfield (almost a quarter of the total), CRRC, and several other nine- and eight-digit projects. But it also includes dozens, if not hundreds, of seven-, six-, and even five-digit projects that all add up — to a wave of positive energy.

“What’s been happening in Springfield over the past several years can truly be described as a wave — a $4.19 billion wave that is gathering momentum, and riders, as it moves.”

And while that number is impressive, perhaps the more meaningful one is $400.4 million. That’s the dollar amount for projects announced since the last of these update meetings, a number that reflects everything from Big Y’s $42 million distribution expansion to MassMutual’s $50 million in investments in Springfield; from the new $14 million Educare facility to the $14 million headquarters for Way Finders taking shape on the site on the old Peter Pan bus station; from the planned renovation of the Paramount ($41 million) to the soon-to-be-announced (we hope) plans to renovate the long-vacant Elm Street block. And we’re pretty sure it doesn’t include a host of cannabis-related businesses now in the talking stages and a planned hotel on the site of the old York Street Jail.

This is what happens when a city gathers momentum and the attention of the development community. People want to be part of what’s happening. People want to ride the wave.

It’s a refreshing change from a dozen years ago when people were talking about the lights going out in this city with doubts about when and if they would go back on.

They have gone back on — and in a big way. And there should be even more evidence of this at the next update meeting.

Opinion

Opinion

By Tricia Canavan

United Personnel Services is a staffing company specializing in professional, information technology, and manufacturing placement throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut. We experience firsthand the impact of the achievement gap on our young people and their ability to succeed at work and in post-secondary education. We also clearly understand how these educational deficits contribute to the significant skills gap that exists between the jobs available in the Commonwealth and the qualifications of many of our residents.

Many young adults are entering the job market without the knowledge and skills needed to secure living-wage jobs, never mind the high-wage, high-potential jobs that would move them and their families on an upward trajectory. This disconnect impedes our economy, limits opportunities for future economic development, and, most importantly, is a real injustice to our kids here in Massachusetts. In our gateway cities in particular, student achievement and mastery of key skills lag behind those of their peers at a sometimes-staggering rate through elementary and high school.

Consider the fact that 72% of jobs will require a career certificate or college degree by 2020. In Springfield, 23% of our kids don’t graduate from high school in four years. Only 17% of our ninth-graders earn a post-secondary degree or credential within six years of high-school graduation, in part because many graduate unprepared for post-secondary success. For those students who do pursue higher education, a huge number require remedial classwork, wasting valuable time and financial aid on classes that don’t get them closer to a degree.

Massachusetts needs to build upon its long tradition of educational excellence to ensure that all of our kids have the education they need to pursue the good jobs that exist in Western Mass. and throughout the Commonwealth. These are jobs like nurses, advanced manufacturing machine operators, web developers, and physical therapists — all sectors with hiring demands that exceed the supply of candidates — and all jobs that provide wages beyond the region’s median income.

The disconnect between the qualifications of our young adults and the jobs our employers need filled is the reason I co-chair Springfield Business Leaders for Education and serve on the boards of directors of the Springfield Regional Chamber and Associated Industries of Massachusetts. Like so many of my colleagues throughout the state, I am deeply committed to our kids and our Commonwealth and want to be part of the solution to these urgent issues.

We know that the way communities spend state education money has a direct impact on student knowledge acquisition and achievement. It is imperative, then, that any infusion of funding is tied to results — for our kids, their futures, and the economic strength of Massachusetts. We also know that innovative reforms, such as the Springfield Empowerment Zone model that has potential to be expanded statewide, must be accompanied by renewed investment in education.

But we must be cautious as we pursue increased financial resources for our schools. Springfield public schools have received large boosts in funding before, through the introduction of federal grant programs like Race to the Top. But these infusions have not translated to sufficient progress that adequately addresses all that our students need. If we are successful in changing the current funding for our schools without using it as a leverage to do better for our kids, we will have failed.

The cost of the status quo — the achievement gap, the failure to maximize our kids’ promise, the inability of businesses to find the workers they need — is huge. Additional money needs to be used strategically, informed by data and evidence, to accomplish specific goals. We deserve to know what those goals are and whether our schools are meeting them — and, if not, why.

Tricia Canavan is president of United Personnel Services in Springfield. This article first appeared in the blog of Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

Opinion

Editorial

It’s a logical step, but the recent decision by the University of Massachusetts to create a national online college is one that can perhaps best be summed up with that phrase risk/reward.

Indeed, there are certainly potential rewards, but also some huge risks and certainly no guarantees of success with this planned enterprise. Like the school’s venture into big-time college football a decade or so ago, this move is certainly not as easy as it looks and will require a large investment, time, patience, and even some luck.

More on that later, but first the ‘logical step’ part.

The announcement made earlier this month by UMass President Martin Meehan certainly makes a great deal of sense given recent demographic trends and other factors that are impacting almost every college in the country, large or small.

High-school classes are getting smaller, and they’re going to continue to get smaller for at least another decade as families have fewer children. These smaller pools of high-school graduates are going to affect both smaller private schools like Hampshire College in Amherst and larger public universities like UMass, but in some ways, those public institutions will likely benefit from these demographic shifts as students and their families look for landing spots on firm financial ground.

But it only makes sense for a growth-minded institution to look beyond traditional students and toward older adults (non-traditional students) seeking to continue their education or finish a degree program — individuals who are prime candidates for online learning because of its flexibility and convenience (specifically, the opportunity to learn from home).

It makes so much sense that many growth-minded institutions are thinking along these same terms. In fact, UMass might actually be considered late to this party — although hopefully not too late.

Several large institutions such as Purdue, Arizona State, and the University of Maryland have established highly successful online programs, as have some smaller schools, such as Southern New Hampshire University. And, right here in the 413, Bay Path University formed the American Women’s College, an online school that has helped change the fortunes of the former two-year college in a profound way.

On the other side of the scorecard, however, several schools have launched online programs that have not met expectations, and still others have essentially scuttled their initiatives after years of high-cost underperformance.

The bottom line is that online education programs are, contrary to public opinion, quite expensive, rather complicated, and immensely competitive. Officials at UMass say this matter has been thought through thoroughly and that there is tremendous opportunity for growth — if they move quickly and properly.

“The time for us to act is now,” Meehan said in announcing the plans during his annual report on the state of the five-campus university system at the UMass Club in Boston. “It’s predicted that, over the next several years, four to five major national players with strong regional footholds will be established. We intend to be one of them.”

He’s certainly right about the first part of that equation — there will be several established in a few years. As for the second part, we hope he’s right about that, too.

But as several schools have already discovered, breaking into the online market is a challenging proposition.

Opinion

Opinion

‘How are they doing?’

That’s the question that seemingly everyone is asking these days, with the ‘they’ obviously being MGM Springfield, the $960 million resort casino complex in Springfield’s South End. Everyone wants to know how they’re doing because this is the biggest business development in this part of the state in who knows how long, the expectations were and are sky-high, and the stakes — for MGM, the state, the city, and the region — are equally high.

And people want to know because, well, it’s not clear just how well they’re doing so far. The revenue numbers, meaning GGR (gross gambling revenues), are not on pace to come close to what MGM told the state they would be for the first year of operation at this facility — just over $400 million. Indeed, over the first six months or so of operation, MGM Springfield was averaging just over $20 million per month. You can do the math.

But beyond the revenues, there are other signs that perhaps this casino is not performing as well as all or most us thought it would and hope it will.

Going all the way back to opening day, the traffic, the lines to get in, the crowds of people downtown just haven’t materialized. Yes, there have been some big days (usually Saturday nights) when it’s difficult to maneuver around downtown Springfield, but not as many as we were led to believe.

Thus the question, ‘how are they doing?’

It’s a difficult question to answer because there are many ways to answer it, and aside from those really qualified to answer that query, no one truly knows.

More to the point, and Mike Mathis said this to BusinessWest for a recent interview, it’s still early in the game when it comes to both gaming in Massachusetts and MGM Springfield, and perhaps much too early to be drawing conclusions about how MGM will fare even this year, let alone in the years to come.

He’s right. These early months can tell us something about how MGM Springfield is going to perform over the long term, but they’re not going to tell us everything. Several of these first months have come in late fall and winter, a typically slow period in this region for both business and tourism.

Meanwhile, MGM Springfield is still very much in the process of trying to figure out what works in this market and what doesn’t, and how to achieve maximum efficiency for this multi-faceted operation. Mathis and others at MGM call this period ‘ramping up,’ and they project it might take three years to get all the way up the ramp.

But there are many reasons for optimism, starting with a change of season and the likelihood that MGM will make far better use of its vast and unique outdoor facilities. There’s also the emerging ROAR! Comedy Club and a multi-year partnership agreement recently inked with the Boston Red Sox that will make MGM Springfield the team’s ‘official and exclusive resort casino’ (replacing Foxwoods in Connecticut) and home to its January Winter Weekend.

Finally, when it comes to the ‘how are they doing?’ question, the most important aspect of the answer relates not to revenues for the state‚ although those are important, but impact on the city of Springfield and the surrounding region.

In the years and then months leading up to the casino’s opening, area officials — and those of us at BusinessWest — said MGM was going to be big piece of the puzzle, not the entire picture. It was going to be a big contributor to the overall vibrancy in the region, but just one of many potential contributors.

Overall, we expected the casino to be a catalyst, not a cure-all, a force that would help put Springfield on the map and help bring people to that spot that on the map.

Maybe all the revenues are not as solid as we hoped they would be, but thus far, the casino is doing most everything we anticipated it might do.

Opinion

Editorial

In the wake of momentous, and almost simultaneous, decisions by Amazon and GE to essentially back out of huge deals they had struck with New York and Boston, respectively, there came waves of commentary hinting that the era of huge corporate location, or relocation, subsidies might finally be coming to an end because evidence was mounting that they’re just not working.

Alas, this is probably, if not almost certainly, wishful thinking. Instead of ushering in an end to this habit of cities, states, and regions handing out billions to billionaires on the promise that they will bring tens of thousands of jobs, the events in Boston, and especially New York, only demonstrate why they won’t be ending anytime soon.

Indeed, while many are praising New Yorkers for standing up to Amazon and saying ‘enough is enough’ when it comes to these corporate handouts ($3 billion in this case), many, many more are lamenting a lost opportunity, criticizing the critics for letting a very big fish work its way off the line. And for the record, New York didn’t really stand up to Amazon. Instead, the corporate giant simply decided it didn’t want to take the heat and the criticism and would much rather go where it was not just welcome, but entirely and unabashedly welcome.

And why not? Seemingly within minutes after it was announced that Amazon would not be building in Queens, elected officials in New Jersey, who finished out of the running in the huge sweepstakes to land Amazon’s second headquarters, said, in essence, ‘our offer is still on the table; take another look at us. Please. Please!’

No, New York’s loss wasn’t in any way a victory for anyone. It didn’t change the equation, and New York is out roughly 50,000 jobs. Amazon just changed the rules slightly but importantly by saying, ‘give us a huge relocation subsidy, and don’t criticize us in any way about taking it.’

And the reality is that it’s on very safe ground as it says that.

Why? Because, as we’ve said many times, jobs are now — and will continue to be for decades to come — the most precious commodity on the planet, and cities and states will do whatever it takes to land them.

Even cities like New York and Boston, which shouldn’t have to compete for them. Indeed, in a perfect world, giant corporations should be paying huge subsidies to come to those cities, which have the skilled workers and the vitality and quality of life to attract more of them. They should be paying subsidies to help those cities battle homelessness, feed the poor, and help the have-nots join the haves.

But this isn’t a perfect world. When Seattle’s City Council passed a tax on large employers to fund an initiative to combat homelessness, Amazon threatened to stop major expansion plans, putting 7,000 jobs at risk. Not surprisingly, the tax was rescinded.

Not surprisingly, because city councils don’t hold the real power in such matters; major corporations like Amazon do.

In the wake of the company’s decision to scuttle its plans for Queens, many are calling what happened a victory for New York and other cities like it. Call us skeptical, but we’re not sure what, if anything, was won.

Opinion

Opinion

 By Associated Industries of Massachusetts

Late winter and early spring is high workplace gambling season. College basketball’s March Madness playoff brackets mean many workers will be talking about, gambling on, and even watching the games at work. 

What does workplace gambling look like? Betting pools, online betting, cellphone calls, and texting are some of the common methods employees use to gamble during the workday. All this may lead to a significant reduction in job performance by some employees.

On the other hand, many employers regard employee gambling as a harmless distraction that creates a little excitement, a diversion from the humdrum of the long winter and workday routines. Most employees treat it as a lark that, win or lose, will not impact them very much. In most workplaces, the single-pool proceeds are relatively small dollars, ranging anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to perhaps a few thousand.

That said, workplace gambling is a big deal and likely to get bigger. The American Gaming Assoc. estimates that employees may bet up to $10 billion alone on the college basketball tournament. And, by the way, sports betting remains illegal in Massachusetts. 

If you are concerned about workplace gambling or feel that your current policies are insufficient, here are some questions to consider:

• Does gambling disrupt the workplace? Is the gambling behavior interfering with production? Are arguments between employees over games and gambling taking place? Is bad blood festering over unpaid debts? Is there a spike in wallet or purse thefts among co-workers? 

• Are you seeing betting take up an unreasonable amount of work time? Are workers leaving their work stations throughout the day to discuss gambling? Are they gathering during work time to discuss betting options?

• Are gambling employees asking co-workers or the company for loans on wages or from 401Ks, or are there delays in repaying debts? 

• Are your supervisors running the gambling pool, raising disparate treatment issues across the business?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you may want to consider establishing a gambling policy.

There are a number of options:

• Adopt a no-gambling policy. Define gambling or the type of behavior that is restricted. Employers are free to establish such a policy. The key factor, as always, will be how consistently will it be enforced by your supervisors.

• Determine what constitutes appropriate disciplinary action against any employee who violates the policy.

• Consider adopting a limited no-gambling policy. One method would be to prohibit gambling above a certain dollar figure or value. Such a policy would recognize that small-stakes gambling such as a few dollars or a lunch is reasonable and will be tolerated even though it remains illegal under state law. The problem — will employees disclose they are doing it? There is also the question of determining what is a reasonable dollar value threshold and how to enforce it.

While it is unlikely any company would face any serious civil or criminal liability for a small-time gambling pool, if its operation makes some employees feel uncomfortable, it may make sense to end the practice as soon as you become aware of it, or before it gets going. Whatever policy you choose to adopt, make sure it is one that is enforceable for your workplace. 

Opinion

Editorial

On the surface, state Sen. Eric Lesser’s proposal to essentially pay remote workers and teleworkers to relocate to Western Mass. seems like an act of desperation.

And in many ways, it is. For decades now, this region has been touting (if not actively marketing) its many assets, including quality of life and affordable housing, and yet the area remains that proverbial best-kept secret.

Meanwhile, many young people, seeing few intriguing job opportunities developing in the 413, are opting for other area codes, especially those in the Boston area, where they’re finding jobs, but also a sky-high cost of living.

So why not incentivize people to do what Horace Greeley first suggested Americans do a century and a half ago — go west?

Lesser’s proposal is to create a $1 million pilot program that would provide up to $10,000 for people to move to this region, buy equipment for a home office, or rent co-working space. He has told media outlets he was inspired by the story of Boon and Caro Sheridan, who decided that, instead of trying to slug it out in Boston’s challenging rental market, they would relocate to Holyoke and eventually buy a converted church.

So why not incentivize people to do what Horace Greeley first suggested Americans do a century and a half ago — go west?

It’s a nice story, and one that can, indeed, be duplicated. And Lesser’s proposal might help, although, in this day and age, $10,000 isn’t enough to cover any of those three costs listed above, and that figure isn’t likely to turn anyone’s head. Triple it, or make it $50,000, and maybe we’d have something. Maybe.

But the actual dollar amount attached to this program is only part of the story. Lesser is right in his argument that if cities and regions can incentivize companies to move in — GE is a good example — and individual companies can incentivize individuals to work for them (happens all the time), why can’t we incentivize people to move to a region?

We can, but we have to offer them a lot more than covering their moving costs. Indeed, the best incentive to getting people to come to a region — or stay in one, as the case may be — isn’t a check from the state. It’s a much larger check from an employer.

And this is a much more complicated proposition.

While some companies have ‘found’ Western Mass. over the past several decades, most haven’t really bothered to look, opting to locate where they know the workers are — the Route 128 beltway, for example.

What’s needed are incentives for corporations — not merely the likes of Boon and Caro Sheridan — to want to move here. And as we said, that’s a much tougher assignment.

We applaud Sen. Lesser for thinking outside the box and creating a discussion that we need to have. His proposal is worth trying, and it just might incentivize some software designers and other creative professionals who can work at home to make their home here.

But with this proposal, as well as his work to build a high-speed rail line that would link Boston with the western part of the state, Lesser is focused on making this area a better place to live. That’s fine, but what we really need to do is make this more of a place to work, and not just remotely in a home office carved out of an old church or an old paper mill.

Lesser is right when he says incentives work and money spent luring large corporations might better be spent trying to bring people to the four counties west of Worcester.

But if we really want to change the landscape in Western Mass. and stem the tide of outmigration, the only solution is to create more quality job opportunities. Tens of thousands of them.

Opinion

Opinion

By Katie Holahan

Healthcare spending in Massachusetts grew less than a key state benchmark and less than the national average during 2017, but employers and workers are not yet seeing the benefits.

The annual Healthcare Cost Trends Report issued this month by the state Health Policy Commission (HPC) indicates that total per-capita healthcare expenditures in Massachusetts rose 1.6% during 2016, significantly less than the 3.6% benchmark set by the commission. The Massachusetts growth rate also fell below the national rate — 3.1% — for the eighth consecutive year.

But the health-insurance premiums paid by Massachusetts employers and employees increased 5.8% in 2017, leaving the average total premium for employer-based coverage among the highest in the country at $21,000 per year for a family plan and $7,000 for a single employee. These figures do not include out-of-pocket spending such as co-payments and deductible spending, which grew 5.9% in 2017 for commercially insured enrollees.

Premiums for smaller employers increased 6.9% and are now the second-highest in the country, according to the HPC. Fifty-seven percent of employees in small businesses are enrolled in high-deductible health plans.

Part of the reason employers are not seeing more benefit from moderating health spending may be the fact that commercial insurers in Massachusetts pay higher prices to providers than Medicare pays for the same services. For hospital inpatient care, average prices among the three largest Massachusetts insurers were 57% higher than Medicare prices for similar patients. Commercial insurers also paid much more for typical outpatient services, including brain MRIs, emergency-department visits, and physician office visits.

Premiums for smaller employers increased 6.9% and are now the second-highest in the country, according to the HPC. Fifty-seven percent of employees in small businesses are enrolled in high-deductible health plans.

The HPC attributed much of the overall increase health-care expenditures to spending on prescription drugs (4.1%) and hospital outpatient services (4.9%). The commission also found that medical bills can vary as much as 30% from one hospital or medical group to another with no measurable different in quality of care.

The HPC makes 11 policy recommendations to continue health spending moderation. Among the highlights:

• The Commonwealth should focus on reducing unnecessary utilization and increasing the provision of coordinated care in high-value, low-cost settings.

• Policymakers should advance specific, data-driven interventions to address the pressing issue of continued provider price variation in the coming year.

• The Commonwealth should continue to promote the increased adoption of alternative payment methods.

• The Commonwealth should authorize the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to establish a process that allows for a rigorous review of certain high-cost drugs, increasing the ability of MassHealth to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers for additional supplemental rebates and outcomes-based contracts, and increasing public transparency and public oversight for pharmaceutical manufacturers, medical-device companies, and pharmacy benefit managers.

Katie Holahan is vice president of Government Affairs for Associated Industries of Massachusetts.