Gov. Charlie Baker sought and received the resignations of four member of the state’s Health Connector board, including MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who came under fire for saying it was “the stupidity of the American voter” that led to the passage of President Obama’s 2010 heath care law.
The move helps Baker consolidate his authority over the agency responsible for helping Massachusetts residents find affordable health care plans.
Gruber became a political lightening rod following his comments and was chastised by opponents of the law. He was called to testify before Congress in December, when he told lawmakers he was “inexcusably arrogant” when he made the statement.
Besides Gruber, Baker also asked for the resignations of board members George Gonser, John Bertko and Rick Jakious — all appointees of former Gov. Deval Patrick. Continue reading
Partners HealthCare is withdrawing its bid to acquire South Shore Hospital, state Attorney General Maura Healey’s office announced Tuesday.
The move comes less than a month after a judge rejected a deal Partners had struck with former Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office that would have allowed Partners to acquire South Shore and two other local hospitals in exchange for some limits on price and staff increases.
In a statement Healey’s office said the state would continue to evaluate Partners’ bid to acquire Hallmark Health Corp.’s Lawrence Memorial and Melrose-Wakefield hospitals “if and when Partners and Hallmark complete pending federal regulatory obligations.”
“We appreciate the thoughtful process that Partners engaged in while making this important decision, and believe it is the right choice for Partners and the Commonwealth,” Healey, who opposed the deal Partners had reached with Coakley, said in the statement. “We are thankful for the valuable input that was provided by the health care community throughout this process to help reach this result.”
Updated at 4:30 p.m.
BOSTON — Groups representing people dependent on state health insurance programs are resisting Gov. Charlie Baker’s push for authority to make major changes in the MassHealth program.
Advocacy groups on Monday were delivering letters to Baker administration officials and legislative leaders expressing opposition to powers sought by Baker in his emergency legislation (H 49) to balance the state budget. Baker has requested authority to restructure MassHealth benefits “to the extent permitted by federal law.” Continue reading
Gov. Charlie Baker has tapped two top health care officials.
Baker announced Thursday that Louis Gutierrez will serve as executive director of the Massachusetts Health Connector, which oversees the state’s health insurance marketplace and website.
Baker also appointed Daniel Tsai as assistant secretary for MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program.
It’s swearing in day for Maura Healey, Attorney General. (Steven Senne/AP)
Maura Healey will inherit several thorny issues Wednesday as she becomes the next state attorney general. Near the top of her list: the agreement that would let Partners HealthCare acquire at least three more hospitals in exchange for some limits on price and staff increases.
During the campaign, Healey raised questions about whether the deal was enough, both in scope and in duration.
So now that she’s in charge, will she urge Judge Janet Sanders to approve the agreement, suggest changes, or start over? In an interview before her swearing-in, WBUR’s Bob Oakes put these questions to Healey. Here’s the sum total of her response:
This is a matter that I’m reviewing and being briefed on now. The perspective I come from, as attorney general, is to drive down health care costs. So I’m considering my options. Right now, the matter is before the court, as you say. There was a proposed consent judgement filed, and we’ll just have to see on that.
In short, stay tuned.
Sanders suggested back in November, at the last hearing on the Partners deal, that she’d like to speak to Healey before issuing a ruling. She may also be waiting for Partners to name a new CEO, a decision some sources expect in the next four or five weeks. Sanders could call the parties in for a status conference at any time. Healey and Partners have that option as well.
Who will make the next move? Any bets?
You can hear all of Bob’s conversation with the new AG here.
Dr. Rick Sacra, a Massachusetts doctor who contracted the Ebola virus in Liberia, and Gov. Deval Patrick converse Tuesday at the State House. (Stephan Savoia/AP)
The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, a quasi-public agency, will issue a $1 million grant to help develop a faster, more accurate test for diagnosing Ebola, Gov. Deval Patrick announced Tuesday.
Also Tuesday, a Massachusetts doctor who had Ebola announced he’s returning to Liberia, where he contracted the virus, to resume his work.
The grant will support a partnership of local life sciences companies, nonprofits and academic institutions that will try to speed up the launch of an Ebola detection tool already in development by Diagnostics For All, a nonprofit organization.
Officials on hand for the State House announcement promised the new tool — which will accept a “single finger-stick of blood” and provide a clear “yes” or “no” response in 45 minutes — will be cheaper, easier to use and lead to earlier diagnosis than current tests.
They said current tests are time- and labor-intensive and not always sensitive enough to detect Ebola at its earliest onset, which they said is critical to containing and effectively treating the disease. Continue reading
A Brigham and Women’s physician will become the next U.S. surgeon general.
Democrats squeaked out a 51-43 vote Monday to confirm Dr. Vivek Murthy, 37, in the waning days of their control over the U.S. Senate.
Dr. Vivek Murthy (Charles Dharapak/AP/File)
Murthy’s nomination stalled earlier this year when the National Rifle Association raised objection to Murthy’s characterization of guns as a health issue. Murthy said he would focus on childhood obesity, not guns, if approved as the nation’s top doctor. Many public health leaders and physicians fumed about the NRA’s influence, but the White House did not press for a vote and many of Murthy’s supporters assumed the nomination was dead.
Then on Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, using a procedural move, put Murthy’s nomination back in play. And on Monday he was approved by a single vote majority a year after being nominated and 17 months after the position was vacated.
Gov.-elect Charlie Baker is choosing someone he worked with in the Weld administration to lead the largest agency in the state — the Department of Health and Human Services. Baker said Friday he tapped Marylou Sudders for the post in part because of her collaborative spirit.
Marylou Sudders (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Several groups are praising his choice, citing Sudders’ work as the former state mental health commissioner and former head of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
WBUR’s Deborah Becker spoke with Sudders and started by asking her why she wants to take over an agency facing several challenges. Their lightly edited conversation is below.
Marylou Sudders: I’m a public servant at heart. In many ways I feel like my entire professional career has been preparing me for a position such as secretary of Health and Human Services. I believe in the tremendous opportunities in the commonwealth. I’ve never shied away from challenges and I have tremendous faith in really good people fixing these problems.
Deborah Becker: Let’s talk about some of those problems, some of which were raised in a recent survey from the National Alliance for Mental Illness. They want to know what the Baker administration will do about hospital emergency rooms holding patients with a mental illness because they can’t find beds in treatment facilities, or over incarcerating folks with mental illness. Are those your priorities?
These are issues I’m very familiar with. I have every confidence that this administration will be looking at the full health needs, and health will be defined as both the physical and behavioral health needs in this administration.
With the many challenges in this field, what do you hope to accomplish?
Marylou Sudders is poised to be named Gov.-elect Charlie Baker’s new head of health and human services, a Baker aide has confirmed to WBUR.
Marylou Sudders (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Sudders is the state’s former mental health commissioner.
State House News Service reports:
Sudders, an associate professor of health and mental health at Boston College’s Graduate School of Social Work, was recruited by Baker to state government in the mid-1990s and served as commissioner of mental health under Republican Govs. William Weld, Paul Cellucci and Jane Swift from 1996 until 2003. She held a similar position in New Hampshire.
Health and human services is the state’s largest executive agency.
The formal appointment is expected later Friday.
Brian Vincent poses in front of a large display of tobacco products at Vincent’s Country Store in Westminster on Nov. 6. Local officials are contemplating what could be a first: a blanket ban on all forms of tobacco and e-cigarettes, leaving some shop owners fuming. (Elise Amendola/AP)
Health officials in the central Massachusetts town of Westminster say they will not hold another public hearing on their proposed first-in-the-nation town-wide ban on tobacco sales, after a rowdy crowd of hundreds forced Wednesday night’s meeting to end in just 20 minutes.
Board members began the hearing with warnings that if the crowd couldn’t remain calm and respectful, they would end the meeting.
The hearing was dominated by opponents of the ban, such as Westminster resident Kevin West.
“I find smoking to be one of the most disgusting habits anybody could possibly do. On top of that, I find this proposal to be even more of a disgusting thing that anybody could ever give any town in the United States of America,” he said.
When repeated efforts to calm the crowd, which erupted into applause a number of times, failed, the meeting was ended and health board members were escorted out by police.
Instead of another meeting, the board will accept written comments through the end of the month.