Entries by Editorial Staff

Pioneer Institute Announces Winner of 29th Annual Better Government Competition

Pioneer Institute is pleased to announce that Los Angeles Country Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro)’s program, “Operation Farm Team: Global Transportation Infrastructure Workforce Initiative” is the winner of the 29th annual Better Government Competition. The theme of the 2019 contest was, “Moving People, Moving Goods, Moving Forward,” focusing on innovations that prepare America for the future of transportation.

Press Release: Choice Media, Pioneer Institute, and Ricochet Announce New Education Podcast

“The Learning Curve” to feature Bob Bowdon, Cara Candal, Ed.D. BOSTON – The inaugural episode of the national podcast “The Learning Curve,” a partnership between Choice Media, Pioneer Institute, and Ricochet, debuting on September 6th, will offer straight talk about America’s hottest education stories. Each week, co-hosts Bob Bowdon and Cara Stillings Candal will interview guests and provide provocative commentary on issues that impact students, parents, teachers, policy makers, and taxpayers throughout the country. “We’re excited to begin this partnership on “The Learning Curve,” which will highlight K-12 education news and opinion from the schoolyard to the 2020 campaign trail,” said Jim Stergios, Executive Director of Pioneer Institute. “With thoughtful co-hosts, we’re sure to hear lively debate among noted school […]

Pioneer Institute to Recognize Winners of 29th Annual Better Government Awards at Gala

Speakers to include National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chair Bruce Landsberg and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker BOSTON – Innovative programs that prepare America for the future of transportation, ensure public safety, reduce traffic congestion, and achieve a cleaner environment will be highlighted at Pioneer Institute’s 29th annual Better Government Competition Awards Gala on Monday, September 16th at the Hyatt Regency Boston. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker will provide opening remarks and Bruce Landsberg, vice chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, will deliver the keynote. Vice Chair Landsberg was appointed in 2018, after holding leadership positions with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Foundation, which received international recognition and numerous awards for promoting light aircraft safety. He has also worked for Cessna, Flying magazine, […]

Study Calls for Easing MBTA Procurement Restrictions and Beefing Up Project Management Capacity

Reforms needed if T is to achieve increased capital spending targets to modernize the system and boost ridership Media Inquiries: Contact Micaela Dawson, Communications Director,  mdawson@pioneerinstitute.org BOSTON – The Massachusetts Legislature must free the MBTA from overly restrictive procurement methods and the T must dramatically increase its project and contract management capacity if it is to reach aggressive capital spending targets aimed at upgrading the system and accommodating more riders, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. “The MBTA will need to change the way it does business and the Legislature will have to remove unnecessary restrictions if the T is to modernize and consistently provide riders with high-quality service over time,” said Greg Sullivan, who co-authored “The […]

Study Calls for Tying Additional State Education Aid to Reforms

Narrowing funding gap between high-income and less affluent districts should be focus of school funding formula update Contact Jamie Gass at jgass@pioneerinstitute.org Read coverage of this report in The Boston Globe and the Springfield Republican. BOSTON – Efforts to update the Commonwealth’s K-12 education funding formula should focus on narrowing the gap between affluent and low-income school districts and be accompanied by reforms designed to improve student outcomes and enhance accountability, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. “Tying new money to high standards and accountability was the grand bargain at the heart of the Commonwealth’s successful 1993 Education Reform Act,” said Jamie Gass, director of Pioneer’s Center for School Reform, who co-authored “The Next Chapter of Education […]

Pioneer Alert: Supreme Court Will Rule on Highly Significant School Choice Case

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) announced that it would hear Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, a case that reveals the harm a state Blaine, or anti-aid, constitutional amendment marked by religious bias does to families by depriving them of educational options. This case has particular relevance to Massachusetts, which is one of the nearly 40 states with anti-aid amendments that have roots in 19th-century anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant discrimination.     Kendra Espinoza, a single mom from Montana, sought a better education for her daughters. In public school, one daughter was bullied and the other struggled academically. Both would later thrive in a parochial school. After the Montana Supreme Court struck down her state’s education tax credit program, Ms. Espinoza was denied access to the scholarships her […]

Report: Rare Disease Patients Hurt by “One-Size-Fits-All” ICER Framework

This op-ed appeared in ICERWatch on June 26, 2019. The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review and its controversial “one-size-fits-all” value framework are a direct threat to rare disease patients, an independent report warns. In its newly-released report, “Looming Challenges for ICER in Assessing the Value of Rare Disease Therapies,” the independent Pioneer Institute identifies a troubling pattern of ICER ignoring the needs of patients living with rare diseases and details how the cost appraiser systematically undervalues innovative treatments for chronic and complex conditions. “Patients with complex and rare diseases have much to be hopeful for as our knowledge expands and more innovative and specialty therapies come to market,” explains Dr. William Smith, the report’s author and a visiting fellow on life sciences at […]

New Report Addresses Distinct Challenges in Utilizing ICER to Assess Value of Rare Disease Treatments

Pioneer Institute Discourages Policymakers & Payers from Adopting ICER to Evaluate Rare Disease Treatments Media inquiries: Contact Micaela Dawson, 617-723-2277 ext. 203 or mdawson@pioneerinstitute.org BOSTON, MA – Today, Pioneer Institute released a new report, Looming Challenges for ICER in Assessing the Value of Rare Disease Therapies, that examines why the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) and the Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALY) approach to value assessment is particularly ill-suited to assess the cost-effectiveness of orphan and rare disease treatments, which represent a rapidly growing sector of the biopharmaceutical marketplace. In the report, lead author and Pioneer Institute Visiting Fellow in Life Sciences, Dr. William Smith illustrates a number of reasons why ICER is unfit to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of rare […]

Pioneer Institute Public Statement: A Season for Management Reforms

The MBTA’s red and green line derailments this week highlight the system’s troubling condition and its impact on riders’ productivity and quality of life. We at Pioneer – most of us are regular riders – understand how vital the T is to our economy. Through many administrations, Pioneer has advocated for policymakers to address the T’s performance issues, stemming from decades of insufficient maintenance, poor management structure, and lack of a clear investment strategy. February 2015 brought nine feet of snow in a single month, laying bare the T’s inability to plan and execute at the most basic level. Only two weeks into those storms, Pioneer issued a public statement that outlined reforms that would be passed in July of that […]

Putting a Price on Life: The Coming Fight Over Government Rationing of Medical Care

This article appeared on The Mackinac Center for Public Policy on June 12, 2019. In Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and elsewhere, government-run health care systems use “quality-adjusted life years” to help determine what medical procedures and drugs are available for patients. In theory, this prevents people from getting unnecessary treatment and helps prioritize patient care. But in practice, it boils down to rationing, carried out by government bureaucrats. Pushed out of the equation are two key participants in medical care: doctors and patients. In Britain, for instance, this type of rationing has led to cancer patients having severely limited access to new treatments that are widely available in other countries. And the quality of life measure may be coming […]

Study Finds Student Growth Percentile Is Unreliable, Limits Access to Charter Public Schools

High degree of error, especially in small school districts, leads to small districts replacing larger ones in bottom 10 percent BOSTON – The Student Growth Percentile (SGP) that the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) now uses as 25 percent of the formula for determining school district rankings has a high degree of error. While the SGP may have a role to play as part of discussions around holding districts accountable for performance, it should not be used for high-stakes policy decisions, including which districts are eligible for an increase in the charter public school cap, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. A 2010 state law requires DESE to rank school district performance.  Districts in […]

Pioneer Public Statement on Legislative Demise of New Bedford Charter School Deal

This past week, in a display of the state’s teacher unions’ raw political power triumphing over deliberative debate, reasonableness, and the best interests of urban students, the Legislature quietly discarded state education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley’s bold effort at compromise in the ongoing saga over the Alma del Mar Charter School’s expansion in New Bedford. The Boston Globe editorial board rightfully awarded Beacon Hill a grade of “F” for its lack of political courage in moving forward with the Commissioner’s New Bedford charter proposal. The 26 years since passage of the landmark 1993 Massachusetts Education Reform Act (MERA) have brought broad-based success. Charter schools have been a big part of that success, especially in larger urban districts. As numerous gold-standard research studies have […]

Pioneer Institute Public Statement on UMass Financial Oversight

Contact Micaela Dawson, 617-723-2277 ext. 203 or mdawson@pioneerinstitute.org Pioneer Institute is disappointed that University of Massachusetts leadership refuses to join with Pioneer to request that the State Comptroller’s Office audit the university’s financial oversight. In the wake of a report finding that UMass President Marty Meehan and the university’s board of trustees bear the bulk of responsibility for the recent budget crisis at UMass Boston, and after the UMass President’s Office requested a meeting with Pioneer staff to discuss the report, Pioneer offered to meet with President Meehan, university finance staff, State Comptroller Andrew W. Maylor, and his Director of Financial Reporting Michael Rodino. The Pioneer study, “Fiscal Crisis at UMass Boston: The True Story and the Scapegoating,” authored by Greg Sullivan and […]

Study Finds UMass Leadership – Not Campus Administrators – Bears Primary Responsibility for UMass Boston Budget Woes

University board approved irresponsible campus spending based on faulty projections, then required UMass Boston to replenish reserves Read early coverage of this report in the Boston Herald and here, The Boston Business Journal , WCVB-TV, MassLive, the Dorchester Reporter. Bay State Banner, and Bloomberg Radio. Contact Micaela Dawson, 617-723-2277 ext. 203 or mdawson@pioneerinstitute.org BOSTON – While the blame fell on former UMass Boston Chancellor Keith Motley, the UMass Board of Trustees and President bear the bulk of the responsibility for the recent budget crisis at UMass Boston due to a lack of oversight of the campus’s capital expenditures, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. “A more accurate description of the UMass-Boston budget crisis is that the UMass Board […]

Nationally Syndicated Columnist George Will Covers Pioneer’s SCOTUS Amicus Brief Topic on School Choice

For many years, Pioneer Institute has been a leader in the effort to repeal the Blaine Amendments, legal barriers in Massachusetts and nearly 40 other states that prevent more underprivileged schoolchildren from being able to attend religiously affiliated schools. Now, nationally syndicated columnist George Will is lending his powerful voice to this important cause with a Washington Post op-ed calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to repeal these harmful amendments. In his column, Will echoes points Pioneer has raised many times over the years (most recently in The Daily Caller), exposing the ugly roots of opposition to school choice: 19th-century anti-Catholic bigotry promoted by the Know-Nothing Party and later in that century by corrupt GOP leader, James Blaine, “the continental liar from […]

Moving Forward into the Future: Enter the Better Government Competition

Summer 2019 is starting and so far, the year has been full of surprises. Here at Pioneer, we’ve looking closely at how to move people and goods now, soon, and in the years to come. Through our Better Government Competition, we’re gathering ideas from around the country. Below are just some of the biggest headlines of 2019, and challenges related to how we’ll keep moving forward. Send us your ideas to improve transportation – you could win $10,000! This year Amazon Prime has started delivering its own packages (and possibly others as well), which means that by the end of 2019 there will be more delivery trucks on the road, perhaps fewer people driving to shop, and new traffic challenges. […]

Presenting Pioneer’s New Annual Report: “Shaping Our Future”

We at Pioneer Institute work every day to promote policies that result in better school options, broader access to affordable healthcare, improved public services and infrastructure, and a more attractive climate for innovators and capital. In Pioneer’s 2018 Annual Report (available to download or view online here), we share our work to drive this agenda in the Commonwealth and across the country. We share progress at the MBTA, even as much work remains. And we share success in expanding economic opportunity. Download Pioneer Institute’s 2018 Annual Report or visit our online version. In this report back to you, our community of supporters, we change our format to focus on impact. We do this understanding that we cannot control the future […]

Public statement on new federal rule eliminating “skimming” of dues from caregivers’ Medicaid payments

Pioneer Institute applauds a new rule announced by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that prohibits state governments from automatically deducting union dues from Medicaid payments intended for those caring for loved ones or relatives. Prior to this action, 13 states (including Massachusetts) classified individuals who take care of relatives and/or loved ones as public employees. A 2014 rule gave unions the ability to collect dues from Medicaid payments made to these caregivers, supposedly to provide benefits including health insurance and skills training. In an August 2018 comment jointly submitted with other think tanks, Pioneer wrote that allowing diversion of Medicaid funds to third parties, like unions, presents risk of abuse and may result in Medicaid funds […]

Making Healthcare Prices Accessible

Today, Pioneer Institute filed a Public Comment with the federal government urging the U.S.  Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to launch a much-needed national effort to make healthcare price transparency consumer friendly and easily accessible to both insured and uninsured consumers around the country. The Pioneer Comment was filed in response to a proposed rulemaking by HHS that seeks to improve the availability of actual healthcare prices, including  prices that insurers and hospitals negotiate. Pioneer informed HHS of its numerous surveys and studies that demonstrate how difficult it is for consumers to obtain healthcare prices before services are obtained. Jim Stergios, Pioneer’s Executive Director, said “Suppressing price information leads to the inevitable result that healthcare dollars are misallocated because price […]

A Rational Voice on the State of American Higher Education and the Cost Crisis

At a time of increasing disruption in the higher education marketplace, Pioneer Institute is working to ensure that our 2-, 4- and advanced degree-granting institutions — which are the envy of the world — innovate and address spiraling tuition costs. Too many students — 1 in 8 — are grappling with overwhelming college loan debt. Some smaller private colleges are struggling to survive or right-size in recognition of shrinking demand. Meanwhile public institutions suffer from an acute case of “empire building,” erecting new dorms and building out residential services that will require billions of additional dollars, even as the Commonwealth’s high school graduating classes are declining in number. Too often the proposals put forth are poorly crafted and aimed at political ends rather […]

Pioneer Institute Files Amicus Brief Urging Supreme Court to Hear School Choice Case

Claims amendment to Montana Constitution motivated by anti-Catholic bias Contact Micaela Dawson, 617-723-2277 ext. 203 or mdawson@pioneerinstitute.org BOSTON – Pioneer Institute today announced that it has submitted an amicus curiae urging the United States Supreme Court to hear Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, which challenges a state constitutional amendment marked by religious bias. The amendment in question is a so-called Blaine amendment. It prohibits public resources from flowing to individuals to send their children to religiously affiliated schools, preventing Catholics and immigrants from receiving the kind of education that would enable them to become successful. In the Espinoza case, Kendra Espinoza, a suddenly-single mom, sought a better education for her daughters. In public school, one daughter was bullied and the other struggled in her classes. Both children would later thrive in […]

Three Cheers for the MBTA’s Perq Commuter Benefits Program

Late last year, the MBTA rolled out a promotional campaign to rebrand the 45-year-old Corporate Pass Program with a new name (Perq), a new website, special fare cards and plenty of information to help employers and employees sign up for the commuter benefit program. The program allows employees to save up to 40 percent by using pre-tax dollars to pay for their commuter expenses. Pioneer Institute congratulates MBTA leadership for invigorated emphasis on this program, which provides approximately 30 percent of the T’s fare revenue. The 2018 Pioneer Institute white paper, “Increasing MBTA Ridership and Revenues with Company Commuter Benefit Programs,” found that a 20 percent jump in employer and employee participation could increase annual revenue by $70 million. Unlike most proposals […]

Here’s why Sarah Palin’s ‘death panels’ are now being debated in Massachusetts

This op-ed by Shira Schoenberg appeared in MassLive on April 25, 2019. The debate over former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s inaccurately named “death panels” has come to Massachusetts. The debate centers on a measure of cost-effectiveness for health care, which assigns a value to a life that changes based on whether a person is healthy. The Affordable Care Act – after public outcry – bans the use of the measurement in Medicare. Now, Rep. Angelo Puppolo, D-Springfield, is trying to ban its use by MassHealth or private insurers in Massachusetts. “I don’t think rationing care, in particular prescription drugs, to the sickest and oldest patients should be a formula that’s used,” Puppolo said. Puppolo’s amendment was not included in […]

Issue Brief: Problems With The Institute of Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) and the QALY Methodology

This article by Chris Rochester appeared in The MacIver Institute on April 23, 2019. “What’s a year of life worth?” That compelling question was posed by Dr. William S. Smith, a visiting fellow at the Boston-based Pioneer Institute in a recent op-ed questioning the merits of a metric that is increasingly used to make life-and-death decisions about the value of certain drugs – and whether a sick person deserves to receive a new, potentially effective medicine. The metric is called the quality-adjusted life year (QALY) and it is being pushed by an organization called the Institute of Clinical and Economic Review (ICER). Essentially, the quality-adjusted life year attempts to calculate how much an additional year of life for a sick person […]

Commentary: Proposed Drug Price Caps Would Stall Advances in Health Care

This op-ed by William Smith and Adam Crepeau appeared in the Portland Press Herald on April 23, 2019. Imagine if the Maine Legislature decided that large pickup trucks were becoming too expensive for the working class people who drive them.  Then imagine that legislators established a commission designed to study the costs to manufacture and sell these trucks. After careful study, the commission then concluded that large pickups produce a $3,000 profit per truck for their manufacturers.  Finally, the commission then established an “upper price limit” on pickups sold in Maine that was $3,000 below the average price at which pickups were currently being sold. Lastly, suppose 45 other states, seeing Maine’s attempt to make pickups more affordable, also established […]

HHS Secretary Alex Azar doesn’t want drug access to become an equation

This op-ed by William Smith appeared in the Washington Examiner on April 18, 2019. On April 8, at a Harvard Medical School forum hosted by Pioneer Institute, President Trump’s secretary of health and human services was asked whether it was advisable for state Medicaid programs to use “cost-effectiveness reviews” that have become common in Europe. These systems use an economic methodology called Quality Adjusted Life Years, or QALYs, to rate treatments according to their ability to extend and improve the quality of life. New treatments that do not meet certain “cost-effectiveness” benchmarks on that basis are denied to patients. For HHS Secretary Alex Azar, this was a controversial question to consider at the moment when the Affordable Care Act has […]

New Study Urges State to Slow Down, Rethink Proposal to Protect Students from College Closings

Board of Higher Education proposal risks “false positives” that could doom colleges, creates potential conflict, and ignores ongoing federal process Read coverage of this report in the Chronicle of Higher Education. BOSTON – The Baker administration and the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education (BHE) should slow down a fast-tracked proposal to protect students from sudden, unexpected college closings such as what occurred at Mt. Ida College, and use the time to rethink its proposal from top to bottom, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. “This is a serious problem that will only get worse.  By 2017, the rate of closures or mergers among non-profit private colleges was twice the 2004-14 average,” said Greg Sullivan, author of A Risky Proposal […]

ICYMI: U.S. HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s Remarks on Healthcare Price Transparency, Opioid Crisis, HIV Epidemic & More

This past Monday, Pioneer held the 13th annual Hewitt Healthcare Lecture to honor our longtime chairman (and chairman of Beth Israel Deaconess) Colby Hewitt, Jr. The crowd of 250 enjoyed a substantive and fun night — the two can go together! — at Harvard Medical School’s Joseph B. Martin Conference Center.  The 2019 Hewitt Keynote Speaker, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II engaged in an open-format conversation with Pioneer Senior Fellow Josh Archambault, and he covered a lot of ground. In the clips below, you’ll hear noteworthy remarks on a number of fronts: price transparency, opioids, HIV/AIDs, pharmaceutical pricing, protecting Medicare, and much more. We hope you enjoy the discussion. The full fireside chat with Secretary Azar is available below. You can […]

U.S. HHS Secretary Alex Azar to Be Featured Speaker at Pioneer Institute’s 2019 Hewitt Healthcare Lecture

BOSTON – Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II will be the featured speaker at Pioneer Institute’s 2019 Hewitt Healthcare Lecture tonight (Monday, April 8th) on “the Future of Healthcare in America.” Secretary Azar will share his vision for value-based care transformation and how it will impact healthcare in the state of Massachusetts and discuss his ambitious reform agenda. Secretary Azar has spent his career working in senior healthcare leadership roles in both the public and private sectors.  From 2001 to 2007, he was general counsel and then deputy secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services.  Earlier in his career, Azar clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and then […]