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SPRINGFIELD — Point32Health, the not-for-profit parent company of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan, announced it has signed a definitive agreement with Baystate Health to acquire its subsidiary, Health New England.

Health New England, a not-for-profit health plan in Springfield, offers a range of plans in the commercial, Medicaid, and Medicare markets and serves approximately 180,000 members concentrated in Western Mass. Canton-based Point32Health offers employer-sponsored plans, Medicare and Medicaid plans, plans on the state exchange, and plans for those who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. It serves 1.9 million members in Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.

The acquisition is expected to improve product offerings and expand access to a broader network with wider geographic reach. Among both organizations’ shared priorities is expanding high-quality programs and services, particularly those that cover underserved populations and seniors, as well as maximizing the benefits that not-for-profit health plans provide to communities.

“Preserving and enhancing strong, high-quality, not-for-profit health plans is critical for Massachusetts health care,” said Cain Hayes, president and CEO of Point32Health. “We are excited at the possibility of welcoming Health New England into the Point32Health family of companies. As the only two health plans in the state that serve commercial, Medicaid, and Medicare populations, we have the commitment and expertise to serve people of all socioeconomic backgrounds, especially the underserved, and to improve members’ quality of life through programs and services that improve whole-person health.”

Point32Health aims to harness the strengths of both organizations and bring value to Health New England members and the broader community by providing greater value to consumers by combining complementary strengths, administrative efficiencies, and a broader product offering; expanding access to care for underserved populations and preserving not-for-profit options through extensive experience in serving these populations; and advancing the quality of healthcare members receive through a commitment to addressing behavioral health, health equity, and social determinants of health.

“It is vitally important to the communities that we serve that Health New England and its programs continue to grow and evolve,” said Dr. Mark Keroack, CEO of Baystate Health. “Point32Health is a vibrant organization and is widely recognized for the quality of its products, strength of its network, and commitment to underserved populations. Point32Health offers resources necessary to support Health New England members by advancing its efforts to support wellness, population health, and disease management throughout the region.”

The agreement, which was unanimously approved by the board of directors of Point32Health and the board of trustees of Baystate Health, is subject to regulatory approvals.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Health New England announced the recent appointment of two vice presidents: Sarah Morgan, vice president of Human Resources, and Shawn Thamert, vice president of Sales and chief growth officer.

Sarah Morgan

Morgan has been promoted from within the organization, where she had been serving as director of Human Resources since 2021. In her new role as vice president of Human Resources, she leads and oversees Health New England’s human-capital and organizational-development operations, ensuring that business strategies, plans, and initiatives are developed and implemented in compliance with governing regulations, internal policies, and procedures. She is also responsible for identifying and implementing long-range strategic talent management goals.

Morgan joined Health New England in 2019 as assistant general counsel. She was previously a litigation associate at Bulkley Richardson in Springfield. Morgan is a graduate of UMass Amherst and earned her juris doctor degree from the Western New England University School of Law. She is currently a master’s-degree candidate in diversity, equity, inclusion & justice leadership at Tufts University.

“We are thrilled to promote Sarah to the role of vice president,” said Richard Swift, president and CEO of Health New England. “Since joining the HR team, she has been recognized for her important work leading the development of our COVID response plans and managing the transition of Health New England to a mostly remote workplace. Sarah has long championed our diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging programs for our more than 400 associates, and she is committed to advancing health equity and social justice within the communities we serve.”

As vice president, Thamert is responsible for the strategic direction, leadership, and oversight for all sales, product-development, and marketing programs, including the Medicare line of business. He is also responsible for Health New England’s partnerships with brokers, employer groups, and community nonprofit organizations.

Shawn Thamert

Thamert joined Health New England as interim vice president, Sales and Marketing, in February 2023. Since then, he has focused on strategic membership growth across all lines of business. He has nearly 25 years of healthcare leadership experience, including as vice president, Market Development for Commonwealth Care Alliance, as well as senior sales positions with MultiPlan, Geisinger Health System, Jackson Health System, Humana, Highmark, and Coventry. He received his bachelor’s degree from Penn State University.

“We are excited to welcome Shawn to this position of vice president and chief growth officer,” Swift said. “As we look to 2024 and beyond, Shawn will serve an important role in strengthening our strategic growth potential in the market. We look forward to his collaborative leadership and the continued success of our commercial and Medicare lines of business so we can continue to uphold our commitment to our employer groups and members and deliver on our mission to improve the health and lives of the people in our communities.”

Morgan and Thamert are members of Health New England’s executive leadership team, reporting directly to Swift, and they join the Baystate Health leadership team as part of the health system.


Addressing Unique Needs


Health New England is the sixth health plan in the country to earn the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) Health Equity Certification for Medicare, and the first in Massachusetts to earn the recognition for both its Medicare and commercial health plans.

Health New England received this certification for its Medicaid, Medicare, and commercial plans by demonstrating exceptional efforts in reducing health disparities and addressing the unique needs of diverse populations.

To earn NCQA Health Equity Certification, health plans must build an internal culture that supports health-equity work; collect and assess data to help create and offer culturally humble care, including language services; ensure that its provider networks are delivering culturally and linguistically appropriate care to meet individuals’ diverse needs; and identify and act on opportunities to reduce health inequities and improve care.

Richard Swift

Richard Swift

“We are committed to continually improving our efforts to reduce health disparities, eliminate barriers to care, and ensure equitable access to healthcare services for all.”

“At Health New England, we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to achieve their best possible health. Receiving Health Equity Certification from NCQA underscores our commitment to advancing health equity for our members and the communities we serve,” said Richard Swift, president and CEO of Health New England. “This achievement reflects the hard work and dedication of our entire team, as well as our ongoing collaboration with healthcare providers, community organizations, and members. We are committed to continually improving our efforts to reduce health disparities, eliminate barriers to care, and ensure equitable access to healthcare services for all.”

NCQA President Margaret O’Kane noted that “the prevalence of racial and ethnic disparities has been a barrier to improving the quality of healthcare of many Americans for too long. Organizations achieving Health Equity accreditation are leaders in closing this gap, and NCQA commends them for their dedication.”

NCQA Health Equity Certification debuted in late 2021. Massachusetts will require health plans to obtain the certification for their Medicaid (MassHealth) plans by 2025. To ensure equity for all members, Health New England led an organization-wide strategy to achieve the certification for all plans.

“We believe that all customers deserve fair and equitable access to care and services no matter what type of health plan they have,” said Shelly McCombs, Quality and Accreditation manager for Health New England. “We are not just looking at whether people have physical health problems like diabetes. We are looking at the social determinants of health — the societal factors that affect people’s ability to be well, such as housing, healthy-food access, the availability of good jobs and childcare, and more. These are all factors that impact people’s ability to focus on their well-being.”

Such health-equity practices have had real-world outcomes. For example, Health New England worked to develop a program through its BeHealthy Partnership Plan with Revitalize Community Development Corp. and Baystate Health. Health New England identified the need to address social determinants of health to help diabetic members access healthy food. Members enrolled in the program receive a cooking appliance of their choice (microwave, slow cooker, or induction cooktop); a kitchen-supply bag; diet education; and 10 weeks of home-delivered, nutritious groceries specially curated for people with diabetes by registered dietitians. The groceries are culturally tailored and feature foods that promote a carbohydrate-controlled, therapeutic diet.

Health New England has made an organization-wide commitment to health equity, McCombs said, and continues to work with the healthcare practitioners in its network, community organizations, and other stakeholders to provide culturally humble care, identify health inequities, and bridge gaps. NCQA Health Equity Certification has helped Health New England earn a four-star overall health-plan rating from NCQA for commercial and Medicaid plans.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Health New England has awarded Maybury Material Handling of East Longmeadow and Community Action Pioneer Valley of Greenfield its Well Worth It Award, Gold designation, for outstanding employee-wellness programs.

Maybury Material Handling provides industrial products and services to manufacturing, distribution, and warehousing customers. Community Action Pioneer Valley is a not-for-profit that helps those with low incomes achieve economic stability and security, and works to build communities in which all people can thrive.

Both employers demonstrated their responsibility to the health and well-being of their employees by encouraging them to use Health New England’s suite of health and wellness services. These include its Healthy Choices Rewards Program that offers monetary rewards for healthy activities, such as joining a gym, nutrition counseling, smoking cessation, and more.

“Creating a culture in which employees are encouraged and empowered to use their wellness programs can be critical to improving their health, and thus the health of the business,” said Richard Swift, president and CEO of Health New England. “Maybury Material Handling and Community Action Pioneer Valley are among the best at recognizing this and taking steps to help their employees reach their best overall health. We are pleased to recognize their dedication with this Well Worth It Award Gold designation.”

Will Maybury, chief financial officer of Maybury Material Handling, added that “we are so proud to receive this award from Health New England. It is a testament to our commitment to helping our employees reach their best possible health, both mentally and physically. A healthy team is critical to offering our customers best-in-class service.”

Jess Thompson, associate director of Community Engagement at Community Action Pioneer Valley, noted that “the health of our employee team is tantamount to our ability to help others. We see the impact every day of health challenges on our communities. It is important to us to do everything we can to help our employees be as healthy as possible, and Health New England’s programs help us do that. We are honored to be recognized for this work.”

Health New England also awarded Well Worth It Awards in the Silver designation to Scantic Valley Regional Health Trust and PeoplesBank, and in the Bronze designation to Springfield Area Transit Co. Inc./Pioneer Valley Transit Authority.

Well Worth It Award winners will be honored at a luncheon on Oct. 5 at the Sheraton Springfield.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Wellness Council of America (WELCOA) awarded Health New England its Well Workplace Award at the gold level. The awards recognize organizations that contribute to workplace health and employees’ ability to lead healthy, resilient, and fulfilling lives through their wellness efforts.

WELCOA, a membership organization for health promotion and wellness professionals, judged employers over seven benchmarks, including support for the whole employee, support for a health-promoting environment, policies and practices, commitment of leadership, and meaningful data collection.

Health New England’s employees have access to the same health programs the insurer offers its customers. Its Healthy Directions worksite wellness programs include reimbursements for fitness and wellness activities, nutritional counseling, tobacco-cessation programs, health education, and more.

Health New England has been honored in past years with the Well Workplace Award at the bronze level. In 2022, the company concentrated even more on expanding its programs and ensuring its employees understand the resources available to support their mental, physical, and emotional health.

“Earning a WELCOA Well Workplace Award at the gold level affirms Health New England’s dedication to the health and well-being of our employees,” said Katie Bruno, Public Health and Wellness program manager for Health New England. “I am proud of the areas we focused on growing in the last year. We became even more focused on offering the support employees need mentally, physically, and emotionally. We also celebrated associates’ successes, whether related to one of our programs or not. We are all on different health journeys, and it is important to be recognized for progress.”

For Health New England’s Mary Santiago, a Senior Provider Relations representative, the programs helped her through a time of great loss.

“I have experienced more grief than most people do in a lifetime. My mental health was suffering; I was functioning like a robot,” said Santiago, who signed up for Health New England programs, including one on resilience and thriving. “I began to rewire myself to switch from sad to happy. It was like I was a caterpillar who became a butterfly. Using the tools from the programs helped me get better physically, spiritually, and mentally. I am more present with my children, family, work, and friends.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Richard Segool, a pediatrician practicing at Pioneer Valley Pediatrics and co-founder of Health New England, is retiring from the Health New England board and from his practice, mostly. He will still see patients one day a week but is largely pulling away from his practice of 47 years.

To honor his contribution to the local healthcare ecosystem, Health New England has made a $100,000 grant to the Baystate Division of Midwifery and Community Health’s Community Connections Program, to help with maternal and infant care. The focus could not be more personal for Segool, as he and his wife, Hélène, experienced the loss of a twin daughter at birth.

In 1986, Baystate Medical Center, two other hospitals, and a group of physicians formed an innovative, co-owned health plan with a mission to improve the health and lives of the people in the communities they served. As one of the first to join the plan and a member of the charter corporation, Segool has helped guide Health New England as it evolved into the only local not-for-profit, hospital-owned health plan in the region. He has served on its board of directors since then.

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SPRINGFIELD — Health New England is offering $100,000 in grants for non-profit organizations that address inequities to improve maternal and infant health. The company’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) grants will award up to $10,000 per organization. 

The DEIB grants will fund non-profits whose programs address health equity and focus on engaging at least one social determinant of health (SDOH). SDOHs are conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age that affect health, quality of life, and life expectancy. These may include socioeconomic status, food insecurity, education, access to health care, safe housing, discrimination, violence, and trauma, etc.  

Registered 501(c)(3) non-profits focused on communities in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, and Worcester counties are eligible. Eligible organizations can find out more and apply for the grant here. Submissions are due by midnight on May 30. 

“Health New England’s Community Health Needs Assessment shows that Black women in Berkshire, Hampden, and Worcester counties are more likely to receive inadequate prenatal care compared to White women. The same holds for Latinas in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties. Funding programs that reduce barriers in accessing critical prenatal care for Black and Latina women will improve health outcomes for moms and their babies,” said Katie Bruno, Health New England’s Public Health and Wellness Program Manager.  

Health New England, a Baystate Health-owned not-for-profit health plan, continues to invest in the health and well-being of the people in the communities it serves. Over the past four years, Health New England’s grants have provided more than $1.2 million in funding to nonprofits in Western and Central Massachusetts.  

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Health New England (HNE) awarded $400,000 in grants to help three nonprofit organizations improve the health and well-being of vulnerable populations in Western Mass.

The grants, made via HNE’s Where Health Matters grant program, will allow Wellspring Cooperative’s GoFresh Mobile Farmers’ Market, Girls on the Run of Western Massachusetts, and the Care Center’s Roqué House Program to expand needed programs focusing on food, girls’ health, and supporting mothers seeking college educations, respectively.

“Health New England has a responsibility to help lift our communities, especially now with the COVID-19 pandemic bringing unprecedented challenges to those with fewer resources than most,” said Richard Swift, president and CEO of Health New England. “The recipients of this year’s Where Health Matters grants serve these populations in creative and effective ways, and we are proud to support the work they do.”

The Wellspring Cooperative’s GoFresh Mobile Farmers’ Market aggregates fresh local produce and delivers it through pop-up markets at low-income housing sites, senior centers, health clinics, and community organizations. The three-year, $150,000 grant will enable Wellspring to double the number of people it provides access to fresh, healthy, local foods; enact a pilot program to expand the GoFresh farmers market throughout winter (the current program operates from May to October), providing year-round access to health foods; partner with local health clinics to establish a food-referral program that meets the needs of patients with chronic conditions through education and access to healthy foods; and continue to support minority and immigrant farmers via the Wellspring Harvest greenhouse program in the Indian Orchard neighborhood.

Girls on the Run of Western Massachusetts helps girls develop essential social, emotional, and physical skills to successfully navigate life experiences and prepares them physically and mentally to participate in a celebratory 5K run. The two-year, $100,000 grant will enable the organization to double the number of chapters of the popular program and expand into Holyoke and Chicopee.

The Care Center’s Roqué House Program provides stable housing for young parents, primarily women of color, working toward a college degree, as well as their children. The three-year, $150,000 grant will fund an artist in residence and counselor for families who live in Roqué House.

Health New England’s Where Health Matters grant program, now in its fourth year, has invested $1.2 million in nonprofits in Western and Central Mass. Health New England also partners with each awardee via volunteering and advising to help them thrive.

Cover Story

A Different Kind of Gig

For roughly two decades, Richard Swift hop scotched the country on a series of interim assignments during which he shared his considerable expertise with several different health plans. As fruitful as this niche has been for Swift, he has traded his ‘interim’ tag for something permanent at Health New England — the role of president and CEO — and at a very unique and challenging time, for him and the company.

Richard Swift says he applied for the position of interim chief financial officer at Health New England with the expectation that this assignment would be like all the other longer-term interim gigs that had dominated his résumé for the previous few decades.

To say that things haven’t turned out as he originally thought would be a huge understatement.

For starters, while he interviewed for the position at Health New England’s offices in Monarch Place in downtown Springfield and had the opportunity to meet many of those in the finance team before starting, once he was awarded the job, he wouldn’t set foot in those offices for close to six months, and only then for short, very infrequent stops.

His arrival coincided almost exactly with that of COVID, which would put him in a working environment unlike anything he was used to.

“I’m told I was the first person they remotely onboarded,” he said, adding that several days before his scheduled start date the company had begun “experimenting” with employees working remotely, experiments that went very well. “They said, ‘I guess we’ll just send you a laptop.’ They sent me a computer, the IT folks hooked me up … the first time I came into the office was in August.”

While that was a huge adjustment for him, there was an even bigger one to come later.

Indeed, he would soon lose the word ‘interim’ from his business card — only he never actually had any in the CFO role, to the best of his recollection — not only from that title, but from the one he would be given roughly a year ago — president and CEO, succeeding Marion McGowan, who would become executive vice president and chief operating officer at Baystate Health, which owns Health New England.

After roughly 20 years of taking on year-long assignments as president of Medwise Partners and flying home every weekend from wherever he was stationed to his home in Arizona, he was planting roots; he even bought one of the Classical High Condominiums. When asked why, and why at Health New England, he said, “this was the right opportunity at the right place at the right time.”

It’s certainly been a whirlwind 18 months for Swift, whose tenure has, indeed, been dominated by the pandemic in every way imaginable, from its impact on Health New England and all health plans, to how and where the 380 employees at the company get work done, to the company’s work within the community and how it has changed in some ways but not in any of the ones that matter.

In a wide-ranging interview from his office at Monarch — he’s been there for several months now, usually without much company — Swift talked about all of the above. And in so doing, he provided some keen insight into what it’s been like to manage during a period unlike anything that a business manager has seen before.

“One size is not going to fit all. And for the 360 of our 380 employees who have been remote for the past year and a half, it’s been an almost seamless process. So given the fact that it’s been successful, it makes it hard to say ‘you have to come back, because it hasn’t been successful and that’s the only way to make it work.’”

“We need to be sensitive to our diverse workforce and their diverse and different needs,” he said, while summing up the challenge of leading at this time. “As a leader, I need to be sensitive to these varying needs, and I need to make sure the organization is sensitive to them. One of the things this experience has taught me is the need to be adaptable — both personally, for myself, and the organization and everyone within it — and accessible.”

As for the pandemic and health plans like Health New England, he said COVID and the changes resulting from it have brought challenges in many shapes and sizes, including to the bottom line. Indeed, while 2020 saw insurers facing far fewer claims than would be considered normal, and most eventually issuing rebates to members, 2021 has seen a surge in claims, with many health plans posting losses in the second quarter.

Swift said Health New England posted losses in that quarter as well (specific numbers were not available), but it has been able to avoid layoffs and cutbacks while actually increasing its involvement in the community, financially and otherwise (more on that later).

As for where and how people work, Swift said the pandemic gave him a first-hand look at how effective employees can be when working from their home office or dining-room table.

And he is using that experience as he goes about setting policy for the company. Above all else, he said he’s learned that managers must be practical and flexible in such matters.

“One size is not going to fit all,” he noted. “And for the 360 of our 380 employees who have been remote for the past year and a half, it’s been an almost seamless process. So given the fact that it’s been successful, it makes it hard to say ‘you have to come back, because it hasn’t been successful and that’s the only way to make it work.’”


Assignment Desk

As he talked about his lengthy tenure as a consultant to a number of different health plans and life as an ‘interim,’ Swift said he thoroughly enjoyed what he considered a ‘niche,’ and a successful one at that.

“For me, it was fun to parachute in somewhere and learn new people, new things, and new places; I liked to travel — it was fun to go back and forth,” he told BusinessWest, adding that his various gigs took him to all corners of the country and for assignments — usually as CFO but also CEO and COO — that varied with the health plan in question.

“Sometimes they were eight months long, sometimes they were for a couple of years,” he explained. “In some cases, people left suddenly; in other cases, it wasn’t suddenly, but they realized that they didn’t necessarily have the successor they thought they had, or they knew they didn’t have one and were going into a search process.

“Sometimes they were successful, strong health plans that just needed some expertise, and some of them were turn-arounds,” he went on. “What I brought to the table was that experience of running that business.”

Health New England was looking to tap into that experience early in 2020 when its CFO announced his retirement and a search for a successor had commenced. As noted earlier, Health New England was going to be another one of those interim assignments.

“When I looked at what was going on here, and at the opportunities that Baystate has with Health New England and that Health New England has with Baystate, I realized that there is so much that we can do together in the Western Massachusetts market.”

But things didn’t go according to script, starting with day one — or actually, even before day one.

Indeed, Swift was scheduled to start in April of 2020. COVID, as we all know, made its arrival in the 413 in mid-March, abruptly changing the landscape for the company and its new CFO (he quickly lost the interim tag), who wouldn’t have to get on a plane to take on his latest assignment.

He recalls that leadership at the company was going to use March 13, 2020, a Friday, as an experiment to see how effectively people worked remotely. That experiment went so well, and COVID invaded so suddenly, that workers never came back. In his case, he never arrived.

“I remember that conversation about ‘we’ll just send you a computer and you’ll work remotely,’ and how stunned I was at the time,” he recalled. “Because in 20 years of interim work, I pretty much got on a plane every week and flew out to my client. I was in my office in whatever city it was, on site. So the notion of doing all this remotely … it took me a while to wrap my head around it.”

While making these adjustments, Swift would soon have to make some others as well.

Indeed, in June, as McGowan was assuming some duties at Baystate while still serving as president and CEO at Health New England, Swift picked up some additional responsibilities for the company. And in October of last year, as McGowan moved to Baystate full time, he was asked to become CEO — again, without the ‘interim’ before the title.

When asked what he saw in Health New England that made him accept a permanent position — he had declined a few offers of that type in the past — he said it was a combination of things, including the team that was in place at Health New England and the opportunities he saw to partner with Baystate in meaningful ways.

“When I looked at what was going on here, and at the opportunities that Baystate has with Health New England and that Health New England has with Baystate, I realized that there is so much that we can do together in the Western Massachusetts market,” he said. “And I was really excited by those possibilities.”


By the Numbers

Looking back on his first 18 months with the company — and ahead to what might come next — Swift said this has obviously been a different and very challenging time for Health New England, and all health plans.

And the pandemic is just one reason why, albeit a big reason. At first, it contributed to a steep decline in claims because people were not visiting the doctor or seeking help even if they needed it. And then, it prompted a huge surge as people went back to the doctor and the emergency room, often with conditions made more serious by not seeking care through most of 2020. Meanwhile, treating COVID itself has often required lengthy and very expensive hospital stays.

“We’re certainly seeing more members having more claims and more services, and more-costly services than we did in 2019,” he said, adding that all this certainly contributed to the company’s second-quarter losses.

Richard Swift

Richard Swift

“COVID has brought a tremendous level of uncertainty. So all of us who put plans and benefits and rates in place for 2021 did that in the summer of 2020 in the middle of COVID, trying to understand what that would look like, and we’re doing it now for 2022, and we don’t know what next month is going to look like, let alone six months from now.”

But mostly, the pandemic has created uncertainty and even greater difficulty forecasting into the future, which creates problems for health plans, Swift noted.

“We set rates well in advance based on what we think our costs are going to be, and we don’t really have a chance to revisit those until the next year,” he explained. “And we obviously don’t know what the services are going to be or what new technologies are going to emerge.”

Elaborating, he said that telehealth technology certainly came of age during COVID, and Health New England, like many health plans, had previously created a telehealth benefit for members.

“In all of 2019, we had something like 850 or 900 total claims for telehealth visits; over the past year, it has averaged almost 30,000 per month,” he noted, citing this as just one example of how quickly and profoundly the landscape can change and health plans can be impacted by those changes.

Vaccines are another example, he said, adding that health plans couldn’t anticipate a two-dose vaccine when they set rates for 2021 last year, and they couldn’t have anticipated a booster, or third shot, as they set rates for next year.

“COVID has brought a tremendous level of uncertainty,” Swift went on. “So all of us who put plans and benefits and rates in place for 2021 did that in the summer of 2020 in the middle of COVID, trying to understand what that would look like, and we’re doing it now for 2022, and we don’t know what next month is going to look like, let alone six months from now.”

As noted earlier, the surge in claims and other factors have generated losses for some health plans in recent quarters and prompted layoffs and cutbacks as well.

Health New England has been able to avoid such cuts, he said, adding that, in the meantime, it has been able to maintain and, in many ways, increase its financial support to the community and its business community, something Swift takes great pride in.
“Even with everything going on with COVID, we’ve continued, and increased, the community support in terms of activities, foundations, grants, and actually providing PPE and hand sanitizer to people who didn’t have the wherewithal and the ability to get it themselves,” he said. “A lot of companies have turned inward, and many of them have laid people off; we made a conscious decision not to lay people off if we could at all avoid it, and fortunately, we have been able to avoid that.”

Elaborating, he said the company adjusted some of its sponsorship activity to accommodate what it would call “COVID mini grants,” roughly $300,000 worth of them that were awarded to community organizations that needed support to address their COVID-related needs.

In addition, the company created Where Health Matters grants, multi-year grants totaling $50,000 to $150,000 awarded to organizations to help offset the effects of COVID on their operations.


Giving the Forecast

Moving forward, Swift said the company would continue its pattern of flexibility and responsiveness to changing conditions as a fall shrouded by uncertainty approaches.

As he talked with BusinessWest, he noted that he was one of very few employees in the building that day, and things would probably remain that way for the foreseeable future. Employees were slated to return, in a hybrid format, by this time, he went on, but there is now more of a wait-and-see approach than a definitive schedule.

Meanwhile, Health New England has joined a growing number of businesses, especially in the broad healthcare realm, that have made vaccination a requirement for employment, a step taken in the interest of maintaining the safety of employees and customers alike.

“One of the things we’ve said concerning our coming back to the office is that we don’t know what we don’t know,” he said. “The only thing we know for sure is that things are going to change.”

And with those sentiments, he summed up both the short term and what could be called the post-pandemic world — whenever that arrives. When it does, said Swift, noting that, in some respects, it is already here, it won’t look like the pre-pandemic world.

And that goes for everything from how and where employees work to how people will access healthcare.

With regard to the latter, telehealth will almost certainly continue to increase in popularity, he said, adding that while the numbers have fluctuated as the pandemic has waned and surged, the technology has gained a broad level of acceptance.

“I do think you’ll see a lot more movement to leverage the technology that’s out there and technology that’s being developed for care without having to traditionally go back and see your doctor in the office on their schedule,” he explained.

As for the office setting and what it will look like, Swift said things simply won’t go back to the way they were in 2019. Companies have learned that employees can work effectively in remote settings, and thus it only makes good business sense to allow them to continue doing so, either in a fully remote fashion or in a hybrid format now being tried by many area businesses of all sizes.

“We have some departments that, by and large, were partially remote before and will be partially, or maybe completely remote in the future,” he explained. “The work they’re doing is such that it’s fine remotely, and they’ll stay that way.

“We have not come out with any edicts that people have to be here on ‘x’ amount of days,” he went on. “Because we know that one size does not fit all and there are certain departments and functions that have very different needs than others; we came to the conclusion that an edict was as arbitrary as pre-COVID, Monday through Friday, 8 to 5, in some respects.”

And there’s a competitive aspect to creating flexibility with working conditions, he said, adding that Health New England can now hire talented individuals from outside the 413 and even outside the state because they have the ability to work remotely.

As for business strategy and long-term planning, Swift said COVID has certainly made such exercises more difficult. But companies still have to plan, he noted, adding that there must be layers of flexibility built into such plans.

“I think that COVID requires us to plan even further ahead, but be more nimble with those plans,” he explained. “Our original date for returning to the office was Sept. 1; with what’s happened over the past several weeks, we’ve pushed that back. But in the spring, we threw out that date of Sept. 1 as the one we were targeting, again with the caveat that everything is subject to change.”


Bottom Line

Swift told BusinessWest that, a few weeks back, his sister called him asking for recommendations on restaurants in Detroit, which she would soon be visiting.

He was able to help her, because that was one of the places he parachuted into while doing his consulting work.

That life has ended, at least temporarily, with a permanent assignment, one that is a far cry from what he thought he was originally signing up for back in March of 2020.

He was, by most accounts, the first Health New England employee to be onboarded remotely, but he certainly wasn’t the last. His first 18 months have been a learning experience on myriad levels, and in all ways it is still ongoing.


George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Health New England announced the recent appointment of Dr. Ira Klein to the role of vice president and chief medical officer. In this position, he is responsible for ensuring the quality and cost-effectiveness of healthcare services for Health New England members, and will focus on clinical excellence, innovation, and technology to improve health outcomes.

Klein joins Health New England’s executive leadership team and reports directly to Richard Swift, president and CEO.

“We are excited to welcome Dr. Ira Klein as our new chief medical officer. With decades of experience in the healthcare industry, he is uniquely qualified to serve our members and strengthen our mission to improve the health and lives of the people in our communities,” Swift said. “He is joining Health New England at a very important time and will be a tremendous asset to our organization and our community.”

Before joining Health New England, Klein served as senior director and lead, Healthcare Quality Strategy at Janssen for Johnson and Johnson Inc. in New Brunswick, N.J. Previously, he held various positions at Aetna Inc. in Hartford, Conn., including medical director, Patient Management, Northeast Region; senior medical director and analyst, National Accounts; and chief of staff and national medical director, Clinical Thought Leadership.

Klein has published articles in several medical and insurance-industry journals. In addition, he is active on various industry committees, including National Academy of Medicine, Pharmacy Quality Alliance, National Quality Forum, Network for Excellence in Healthcare Innovation, Foundation for eHealth Initiative, National Pharmaceutical Council, Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturing Assoc., and Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative.

He is a diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine and a member of the American College of Physicians, as well as a certified health-insurance executive with the Assoc. of Health Insurance Plans, Executive Leadership Program.

Klein holds an MBA degree from Rutgers University’s Graduate School of Management, a doctor of medicine degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University’s College of Pharmacy.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Richard Swift, who has served as Health New England’s (HNE) interim chief financial officer since April, has been appointed president and CEO, effective immediately.

Swift is an experienced chief executive officer and chief financial officer for provider- owned health plans, and a senior healthcare executive with over 30 years of leadership with integrated delivery systems, health plans, and provider groups throughout the country.

He has served as president of Medwise Partners, a health-insurance consulting company he founded in 1996. In that capacity, he has served in numerous interim executive roles for regional health plans throughout the U.S. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Mercer University and an MBA in healthcare administration from the University of Miami in Florida.

As president and CEO, Swift will be responsible for the successful operation of HNE; driving growth across the organization, including the development and execution of strategic plans; successful introduction of new programs and services; membership growth; operational, financial, and service excellence; and continued improvements in clinical quality with a focus on lowering the cost of care in Western Mass.

HCN News & Notes

SPRINGFIELD — Health New England is launching its “Where Health Matters” grant program as part of its Community Benefits Program for the third year in a row. The grant application process runs through April 27.

The “Where Health Matters” grant program is designed to advance the health and well-being of vulnerable population groups living in Central and Western Mass. Health New England will award five $50,000 grants to community nonprofit organizations, for an annual total of $250,000. The grant program focuses on three areas of health and social factors that influence health: built environment (such as access to healthy foods and places to exercise), transportation, and care coordination.

“We are pleased to continue our grant program in 2020 and acknowledge the importance of giving back to the community to help support the health needs of our most vulnerable community members,” said Marion McGowan, president and CEO of Health New England. “We look forward to partnering with five local organizations that have strong community relationships and are committed to improving the health outcomes of our at-risk residents.”

The grant program will award both one-year and multi-year grants to eligible non-profit organizations, with current IRS-designated 501(c)(3) status, that manage innovative, community-based programs benefiting underserved residents of Berkshire, Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, or Worcester counties of Massachusetts, with a particular focus on Greater Springfield. Preference will be given to programs that focus on mental health, substance use, chronic health conditions (obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, cancer), and the need for increased physical activity and healthy diet.

Health New England’s “Where Health Matters” Grant application process begins with a letter of intent. Organizations meeting the request for proposal (RFP) criteria are encouraged to submit a letter of intent online by 5 p.m. on Monday, March 23. Complete grant RFP applications are due by 5 p.m. on Monday, April 27. For additional information, visit healthnewengland.org/community/grantprogram.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Health New England has been recognized as one of the 2019 finalists of the Healthiest Employers of Massachusetts, a nationally recognized awards program powered by the Springbuk Health Intelligence Platform.

Applicants to the Healthiest Employers awards program were evaluated across six key categories, representing a holistic view of employee well-being: culture and leadership commitment, foundational components, strategic planning, communication and marketing, programming and interventions, and reporting and analytics. All companies that applied to the awards program were ranked according to the proprietary Healthiest Employers Index, a 1-100 rubric for employee well-being programming.

Ranked second in the 100- to 499-employee size category in Massachusetts, Health New England was honored for its commitment to employee health and corporate health programming. As an award finalist, Health New England has demonstrated a strong commitment to the health and well-being of its team members.

“We are honored and excited that Health New England is being recognized for the work we do to empower our associates to make positive changes in their health journeys,” said Katie Bruno, Public Health and Wellness program manager at Health New England. “We strive to improve the health and lives of the people in our communities, and we bring that same mission to our worksite wellness program. My team, in collaboration with our wellness committee, implements engaging, innovative, and meaningful programs that support our associates’ health needs.”

Health New England offers traditional wellness programs that allow employees to partake in short-term programs individually or with a team, and identifies ways to encourage long-term behavior change by building a work culture that supports overall health. This includes leadership support, internal partners, mindfulness training, health coaching, flexible work hours and location, and increased benefits and rewards.

“We congratulate Health New England for their efforts to make workplace health a top priority for their organization and their team members,” said Rod Reasen, co-founder and CEO of Springbuk. “Each year, it’s our privilege at Springbuk to recognize the best of the best in corporate health through the Healthiest Employers awards program. Across the nation, we’re encouraged by the tremendous efforts of corporate health leaders proactively investing in the well-being of their employee population.”