Entries by Lauren Corvese

Status of Healthcare Price Transparency across the United States

At a time when the coronavirus pandemic has caused massive shifts in state policies on telehealth and scope of practice in healthcare, a new Pioneer Institute study underscores that most of the 50 states continue to suffer from weak laws regarding price transparency.  The study identified states that have laws that require carriers, providers or both to provide personalized cost information to consumers before obtaining healthcare services.

Expanding Educational Opportunities: Three Models for Extended Summer Enrichment Programs in Massachusetts

The last of a three-part series by Pioneer Institute on summer learning shows that Massachusetts schools establishing summer enrichment programs to close the achievement gap between lower-income and higher-income students can have a greater impact by eventually expanding the program across multiple summers or for a full year. This final paper introduces three types of extended summer enrichment models: 12-month programs, multi-year summer-only programs, and multi-year, year-round programs.

Transparency in Retail Drug Prices: Easy to Obtain but Accuracy May Be Doubtful

This paper is the fourth in a series on price transparency in the healthcare industry, and the first Pioneer report to focus on the retail price of prescription medications. Researchers called 44 retail drug stores across the state asking for the price of a 30-day supply of each drug in a common dosage. In each case the callers said they were self-pay and pressed the drug store for information about discounts.

Op-ed: Health fee pinches taxpayers

Read this op-ed in the Boston Herald (September 4, 2016). Sometimes the Affordable Care Act (ACA) seems like part of history. While headlines about implementation pains persist, many changes are taking place under the radar. One such change that has received almost no attention is a new fee on Medicaid, called MassHealth in Massachusetts. The ACA contained roughly 20 revenue-raising provisions to help fund coverage expansions. One of these new fees (the Health Insurance Provider Fee, or HIPF) is assessed, in part, on companies providing coverage for those on MassHealth, but now taxpayers are funding the entire cost of the fee. It may sound odd, but the fee amounts to the federal government taxing state governments and itself. Paying it increases […]

Expanding Educational Opportunities: Best Practices in U.S. Summer Enrichment Programs

This report is the second of a three-part Pioneer Institute series of studies on summer enrichment programs with a particular focus on opportunities for disadvantaged students. It highlights best practices in the field by profiling a range of summer programs. The authors urge summer enrichment programs to partner with entities that help place disadvantaged children in educational programs to help the schools and non-profits recruit students. They also urge programs run by schools to use academic-year faculty.

Telemedicine: The Future of Healthcare

Telemedicine sounds a bit like science-fiction, but the practice is far from fictitious. Many Massachusetts doctors practice telemedicine every day, as it is quickly gaining popularity. Telemedicine involves providing healthcare services through technology, rather than in-person (think of a video call, like Skype). What seems like a logical step toward efficiency in healthcare has become a heated debate on Beacon Hill over how to pay for it. It’s hard to argue against the benefits of telemedicine. First is its convenience: with telemedicine there is no traffic, no babysitter needed, no time taken off work and no gas consumed. With much of the stress of in-person visits eliminated, patients are more likely to seek care.  It’s like a return to the […]

Survey of Summer Enrichment Programs at Independent and Parochial Schools in Massachusetts

A survey of more than 70 Massachusetts private and parochial schools found that most offer academically-oriented summer programs, which have been found to prevent summer learning loss and can help close the achievement gap among student groups. The survey is the first of a three-part study that will yield a comprehensive guide to summer enrichment programs in the commonwealth.

UMass At A Crossroads

This paper is the first in Pioneer Institute’s UMass at a Crossroads series. In this study, Pioneer focuses on UMass’ significant growth in two areas, academic competitiveness and student enrollment, compared to other New England state universities, MA private universities, national private universities and national public universities. Pioneer raises the question of whether the continued expansion of UMass, based largely on increased enrollment of out-of-state students, is in the best interest of the commonwealth.

Rather than Cut The Ride’s Services, Change the Service Delivery Model

On December 14th, the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) met to discuss how to rein in the agency’s spending and debated making changes to its paratransit system, The Ride. The FMCB faces a daunting task.  The MBTA is plagued with financial woes, including $5.5 billion in outstanding debt and $7 billion in deferred maintenance. That alone translates into $5,000 dollars per each of the commonwealth’s 2.5 million households. This is on top of the MBTA’s current budget shortfall of $170 million this year, annual operating losses, expensive collective bargaining agreements, and unexpected cost overruns with the Green Line Extension project.  The agency definitely needs to make some cuts. The FMCB has proposed a real innovation for MBTA paratransit: […]

Horsing Around at the Gaming Commission

It’s time to quit horsing around at the Gaming Commission. Even given the dwindling popularity of the sport, Massachusetts would want to maximize the number of owners coming here to race their horses, right?  After all, with new casino gambling in the state, a portion of gaming proceeds are slated to help keep the tracks afloat. In fact, it is projected to contribute nearly $18 million a year to Massachusetts’ thoroughbred horse racing industry. Horse racing, though a more traditional gaming venue, helps keep a portion of Massachusetts workers employed, including vendors, owners, trainers, jockeys, and racetrack workers themselves, as well as the supporting community of veterinarians and feed suppliers. The industry provides entertainment and an opportunity for legal gambling. […]

State Contractor Confirms: GLX Cost Overruns Due to Bid Process

As Pioneer first pointed out in a September blog post and again in Research Director Greg Sullivan’s interview with Fox 25 Investigates, the bid process is to blame for the sharp increase in price estimate for the MBTA’s Green Line Extension project.  The contractor the state recently hired to investigate the price increase came to the same conclusion: the new procurement method (called Construction Manager/General Contractor, or CM/GC) used for the GLX contract did not foster price competition and left the MBTA open to financial risk. Echoing Pioneer’s past statements, the contractor claims that the MBTA should have foreseen cost-overruns and that “officials botched the implementation of a new contracting process — one that had not been used in Massachusetts.”  […]

How UMass can cut the $11 million

Yesterday, the Statehouse News Service reported that UMass President Marty Meehan announced UMass needs to cut $11 million because the Legislature did not include this sum in their supplemental budget bill.  Meehan is upset that his lobbying efforts did not yield state funding for the collective bargaining agreement UMass reached with faculty and staff unions to pay $10.9 million in retroactive wages.  Since the wages have already been paid, the university will have to look elsewhere to offset the cost. Meehan, who is “puzzled” and “disappointed,” said it will be difficult to find $11 million to cut from this year’s budget. Really? Pioneer recently looked into UMass’ spending and found a lot of fat to cut. From 2009 to 2014, […]

5 Reasons Students will Love the New Higher Ed Bill

Expanding scholarships, savings incentives, refinancing loans, collaboration efforts, and finding a new funding formula are all a great start, but could more be done? Tuition and fees at UMass have gone way up, average student debt for UMass Amherst graduates has hit $30,000, and if the relationship between university costs and debt continues, this year’s freshmen are looking at owing over $36,000 when they graduate. The rise in college costs and student debt remain prominent issues with no relief in sight.  With the recent media buzz over the UMass tuition and fee hikes of more than 5 percent, it’s no wonder that the state legislature has teed up a new higher education bill: H. 1068.  The bill, sponsored by co-chairs […]

The Impact of UMass Tuition and Fee Hikes on Student Debt

Student debt has reached astounding levels.  At nearly $1.2 trillion, outstanding student debt is nearly the highest form of debt in the country, second only to mortgages.  The situation has become a salient issue, not only part of a national conversation but also here in Massachusetts. Recently, Pioneer published a blog on the rising cost of tuition and fees at the University of Massachusetts that questioned why UMass was not looking to cut costs instead.  This past June, the Board of Trustees voted to increase tuition and fees for in-state students at UMass by more than 5 percent. Graduating student debt at UMass Amherst grew by nearly 20 percent from 2010-2014, highlighting the crippling long-term effect of the hikes.  Stakeholders […]

MBTA Experiment Gone Wrong! The Green Line Extension Contract

Background The Green Line Extension (GLX) is a long-awaited MBTA project, the result of a lawsuit settlement involving Big Dig mitigation and the Federal Clean Air Act.  The project as planned will add two branch lines to the northern end of the green line with five miles of new track, seven new stations, a vehicle storage maintenance facility, and an extension of the Somerville Community Path.  Recently, an estimated $1 billion cost overrun was announced, on top of the nearly $2 billion original price tag. The project is now 50 percent over budget—the budget that was used to secure 50 percent funding by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).  Because the 50 percent federal funding was locked in at the original […]

UMass Tuition Hikes: Why Not Cut Costs?

And shouldn’t in-state students be the top priority? WRKO’s Boston.com Morning Show Host Kim Carrigan interviewed Pioneer’s Mary Connaughton about the findings in this post. Listen here. Just two days ago, the Boston Globe highlighted an important issue regarding UMass tuition and fee increases for the coming academic year.  While making a fair point that public investment is needed to improve the quality of education at the University of Massachusetts, Pioneer offers a different take: rather than concentrating on obtaining greater funding, UMass should focus on cutting costs internally and on putting the focus back on its in-state students.   Tuition and Fee Hikes In early August, MA Senate President Stanley Rosenberg wrote a letter to UMass President Marty Meehan asking […]

MBTA gets an F for Public Records Law Compliance

Ten days. That is how long it is supposed to take for a Massachusetts state agency to respond to a public records request.  But here we are, twenty-one days later, and Pioneer has still not received so much as acknowledgement of a request we sent to the MBTA. You may recall a blog post from July about the MBTA’s poor practices when it comes to public records requests.  In March, Pioneer requested MBTA revenue information from 2014-present, to which the agency replied there were no responsive documents.  This seems impossible since the MBTA has clearly been collecting revenue since 2014. Pioneer also requested fare collection procedures submitted by Keolis and fare collection fines against Keolis from July 2014-present in June […]

No Fare! MBTA Tight on Public Records

The MBTA has been attracting a lot of attention lately on how they could save money.  But what about how the MBTA makes money? Pioneer wanted to look into fare collection practices on the commuter rail and revenue information during the MBTA’s contract with Keolis, but it seems we have hit a wall. Using the public records request service on www.muckrock.com, Pioneer sent two requests to the MBTA: one on March 12, 2015 for MBTA revenue information from 2014-present, and another on fare collection procedures submitted by Keolis and fare collection fines against Keolis from July 2014-present on June 9, 2015.  Neither request was fulfilled within 10 calendar days, as the Massachusetts Public Records Law requires.  Both required multiple follow-up emails […]