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Senate Creates Roadmap for Debate on Employer Assessment

Posted by Katie Holahan on May 16, 2017 3:36:24 PM

The Massachusetts Senate today sought to define the process through which the Baker Administration might require employers pay for a shortfall in the MassHealth program.

statehousedome.jpgThe proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget released by the Senate Ways & Means Committee gives the administration a choice of increasing the Employer Medical Assistance Contribution (EMAC) or creating a stand-alone quarterly assessment on employers.

The Senate envisions raising $180 million from such assessments versus the $300 million contained in the governor’s budget. Senators would also limit the life of those assessments to two years.

The approach of creating a roadmap for the administration is similar to the one adopted earlier by the House of Representatives, through the specifics of each proposal differ.

“The Senate Ways & Means Committee took a step in the right direction today by outlining a thoughtful and transparent approach to closing the Medicaid budget deficit. Employers are particularly encouraged that the committee’s budget proposal would raise $180 million from employers instead of $300 million; would provide the Baker Administration with the flexibility to find a solution; and would sunset any employer assessments,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

“The Senate plan again reminds us that the only long-term solution to the Medicaid funding issue is to redouble efforts to control the cost of providing health insurance to our low-income neighbors. Without such an effort, the Medicaid budget gap will continue to grow and divert precious resources from other priorities such as education and infrastructure.”

Lord also urged the Senate to add a provision that would require the Baker Administration to seek a federal waiver allowing Massachusetts to prevent people who receive an offer of health insurance from their employers from purchasing insurance through MassHealth.

The Senate proposal would require Secretary of Administration and Finance Kristen Lepore to file a letter with the Legislature by August 1 indicating whether she will choose the EMAC or assessment option. Regulations must be published by November 1 and take effect January 1 of next year.

Secretary Lepore could either increase the employer assessment for EMAC, an obscure program originally meant to provide health insurance to unemployed people, from .34 percent to .75 percent, or establish a separate employer assessment based upon whether or not an employer offers qualified health insurance and has a minimum uptake rate for that insurance.

The secretary would have  to consider the following in developing any assessment:

  1. how much the employer pays toward the employee’s insurance;
  2. how many employees they have;
  3. whether or not their employees are Massachusetts residents;
  4. how many employees are part-time
  5. whether or not their employees have access to health insurance through different private sources, like parental, spousal, veteran’s, or Medicare, for example.

Governor Baker originally proposed a $2,000-per-employee assessment upon companies at which at least 80 percent of full-time worker equivalents do not take the company’s offer of health insurance, and that do not make a minimum contribution of $4,950 annual contribution for each full-time worker. If 70 percent of a company’s employees accept company health insurance, the company would be assessed $2,000 per employee for the number of employees represented by the 10 percent difference.

AIM has opposed the employer assessment because the growing shortfall at MassHealth, which provides health insurance to 1.9 million low-income Massachusetts residents, is attributable largely to problems arising from the federal health care reform. Federal reform made access to health insurance an entitlement based on expanded income eligibility and significantly expanded the roles of people on Medicaid.

The full Senate will vote on the Medicaid assessment proposal and the rest of its Fiscal Year 2018 budget blueprint later this week. House and Senate will then meet to work out differences.

 

Topics: Massachusetts senate, Health Care Costs, Employer Health Assessment

Governor Baker Addresses AIM Annual Meeting

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 12, 2017 12:19:02 PM

Governor Charlie Baker delivered the keynote address at the 2017 AIM Annual Meeting last week in Boston. The governor reviewed the accomplishments of his administration and ended with a passionate plea for bipartisanship.

Here is his full speech...

Topics: AIM Annual Meeting, Massachusetts economy, Charlie Baker

Tech Foundry Addresses Burgeoning Need for IT Workers

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 11, 2017 3:31:56 PM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts last week presented the John Gould Education and Workforce Development Award to Tech Foundry of Springfield.

Founded in 2013, Tech Foundry has trained more than 100 people ranging from high school students to older workers – many from underserved and at-risk populations – to meet the accelerating demand for qualified IT workers in western Massachusetts.

Here is their story...

 

Topics: AIM Annual Meeting, Education, Gould Education and Workforce Training

AIM Vision Awards | WHOI Makes Massachusetts Global Center of Ocean Science

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 10, 2017 10:45:10 AM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts last week presented the second annual Vision Awards, which honor the accomplishments of companies and individuals who have made unique contributions to the economy and citizens of Massachusetts.

One of three 2017 Vision Awards went to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and its Director and President, Mark Abbott.

WHOI is the world’s largest, private non-profit oceanographic research institution and a global leader in the study and exploration of the ocean. An unmatched reputation for intellectual discovery under the water has allowed the organization to contribute to its economic surroundings out of the water as well.

Here is their story...

Topics: AIM Annual Meeting, Massachusetts employers, AIM Vision Award

AIM Vision Awards | Bright Horizons Helps Employers, Employees Balance Complex Work/Life Issues

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 9, 2017 1:43:52 PM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts last week presented the second annual Vision Awards, which honor the accomplishments of companies and individuals who have made unique contributions to the economy and citizens of Massachusetts.

One of three 2017 Vision Awards went to Bright Horizons Family Solutions of Watertown and its co-founder, Linda Mason. Bright Horizons has forged a trusted global presence as an indispensable resource for employers and their workers seeking to address an increasingly complex array of work-life issues.

Here is their story...

 

Topics: AIM Annual Meeting, Massachusetts employers, AIM Vision Award

AIM Vision Award | Financial Services Pioneer Fidelity Continues to Innovate

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 8, 2017 11:00:00 AM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts last week presented the second annual Vision Awards, which honor the accomplishments of companies and individuals who have made unique contributions to the economy and citizens of Massachusetts.

One of three 2017 Vision Awards went to financial services pioneer Fidelity Investments and its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Abby Johnson.

Fidelity has used innovation and an unrelenting focus on customer service to mold itself into a diversified financial services firm that is a leader in personal investing, workplace investing, and tools and services for financial intermediaries.

Here is their story:

Topics: AIM Annual Meeting, Massachusetts employers, AIM Vision Award

Governor Makes Case for Bipartisanship

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 8, 2017 10:11:59 AM

Governor Charlie Baker, speaking one day after a health-care bill once again passed the US House of Representatives without a single vote from the minority party, made a passionate case for bipartisanship in a speech to the AIM Annual Meeting Friday.

Baker.2017.jpg“In the end, you’re not measured by how many things you opposed but how many things you get done,” the governor told more than 850 business leaders gathered at the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel.

“I take tremendous satisfaction from the fact that we get along with people on both sides of the aisle.”

Governor Baker has worked closely throughout his first two years in office with the two top Democrats in the Massachusetts Legislature – House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg – on complex issues ranging from the MBTA and energy policy to the opiate crisis. The bipartisan approach has made the governor the most popular chief executive in the nation, according to polls.

“I’ve learned a lot from people I don’t agree with,” said Governor Baker, who said his entire staff prides itself on listening to ideas from throughout the ideological spectrum.

The governor’s speech highlighted an Annual Meeting celebration that featured presentation of 2017 AIM Vision Awards to Fidelity Investments, Bright Horizons Family Solutions and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. AIM also presented the John Gould Education and Workforce Development Award to Tech Foundry of Springfield.

Governor Baker highlighted several bipartisan initiatives he said have been cornerstones of his administration:

  • Strengthening communities, including a $300 million funding increase for k-12 education, development of a second-generation MCAS test, $800 million for local roads and bridges and an initiative under which cities and towns can share best governing and management practices.
  • Economic growth, including a broad regulatory review, a multi-million-dollar investment in vocational/technical schools, streamlining of mass transit systems and an energy bill that maintains costs while reducing the commonwealth’s carbon footprint.
  • Improved efficiency, including reduced wait times at the Registry of Motor Vehicles and an overhaul of the Health Insurance Connector Authority, which broke down several years ago as residents were attempting to buy insurance.

Bipartisan cooperation, the governor said, was one of the primary reasons that General Electric Company chose to locate its corporate headquarters in Boston. The company has often cited the collaboration between the Republican Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a Democrat, as a factor in its decision to move from Connecticut.

Governor Baker praised the work done by AIM to represent the interests of employers in public-policy debates.

He praised the association for its willingness to “speak candidly and straight about issues it cares about.”

Topics: AIM Annual Meeting, Massachusetts, Charlie Baker

Woods Hole Oceanographic President Discusses AIM Vision Award

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 2, 2017 3:01:03 PM

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) - the world’s largest, private non-profit oceanographic research institution and a lynchpin of the Massachusetts economy – will be one of three organizations honored with AIM Vision Awards on Friday.

Mark Abbott, the President and Executive Director of WHOI, spoke to Public Radio’s Living Lab Radio yesterday about receiving the Vision Award and about the organization’s long-term strategy for maintaining its status as a pre-eminent scientific center.

We invite you to listen to his comments. Please go to 6:07 on the audio download from WCAI in Falmouth.

Listen to the Interview

Other 2017 Vision Award winners are Fidelity Investments and Bright Horizons Family Solutions.

Topics: AIM Vision Award

Business Confidence Retreats After Seven-Month Rally

Posted by Christopher Geehern on May 2, 2017 9:46:20 AM

Massachusetts employers hit the pause button on a seven-month rally in business confidence during April, but their outlook remained solidly optimistic in the face of mixed political and economic signals.

BCI.April.2017.jpgThe Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) lost 2.2 points to 60.2 last month, 4.0 points higher than its level of a year earlier. Every constituent element of the confidence index lost ground after reaching a 13-year high during March.

The results came as the Massachusetts economy contracted at a 0.5 percent annual rate during the first quarter and the state unemployment rate rose to 3.6 percent.

“We should not be surprised to see confidence readings correct slightly after advancing six points since September,” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design.

“It bears watching to determine whether the broad April decline becomes a trend as we move into the summer.”

Analysts believe the numbers may reflect growing concern among employers about the ability of the Trump Administration to deliver the many pro-growth policies it promised during the campaign.

The AIM Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, has appeared monthly since July 1991. It is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. The Index reached its historic high of 68.5 on two occasions in 1997-98, and its all-time low of 33.3 in February 2009.

The index has remained above 50 since October 2013.

Employers grew less confident about both the overall economy and their own operations during April.

The Massachusetts Index, assessing business conditions within the commonwealth, lost 0.4 points to 63.3, leaving it 6 points higher than in April 2016.

The U.S. Index of national business conditions shed 2.7 points after gaining ground for the previous sixth months. April marked the 85th consecutive month in which employers have been more optimistic about the Massachusetts economy than the national economy.

The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, declined 1.9 points to 59.9 while the Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, dropped 2.5 points to 60.5. The future outlook remained 3.2 points higher than a year ago.

The Company Index, reflecting overall business conditions, fell 2.6 points to 60.2. The Employment Index fell 2.8 points to 56.2, and the Sales Index declined 2.1 points to 60.5.

The AIM survey found that nearly 39 percent of respondents reported adding staff during the past six months while 19 percent reduced employment. Expectations for the next six months were stable – 37 percent hiring and only 10 percent downsizing.

Barry Bluestone, Stearns Trustee Professor of Political Economy at Northeastern University and a BEA member, noted that the Massachusetts economy is running up against tightness in the labor market that makes it difficult for employers to grow.

“The combination of a prolonged economic recovery and the demographics of skilled workers retiring with no one to replace them is creating an impediment to growth for Massachusetts employers. The shortage underscores once again the importance of creating an education and training system that responds to the demands of the economy,” Bluestone said.

The April survey also reversed an unusual result in March when Western Massachusetts companies were more confident than those in the eastern portion of the commonwealth. Eastern Massachusetts employers posted a 61.7 confidence reading in April versus 58 for employers in the western part of the state.

AIM President and CEO Richard C. Lord, also a BEA member, said employer confidence is also facing headwinds from accelerating health-care and health-insurance costs. Massachusetts has exceeded its objective for health-care spending in each of the past two years and employers continue to pay some of the highest costs in the nation.

“The good news is that Massachusetts is beginning to identify some answers. And there appears to be enough common ground and political will on the issue to pursue some solutions,” Lord said.

“New research conducted by the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission suggests that Massachusetts employers, insurers and policymakers could reduce total health-care expenditures anywhere from $279 million per year to $794 million per year, or 0.5 to 1.3 percent, by making several key improvements to the health-care system.”

Topics: AIM Business Confidence Index, Massachusetts economy, Economy

Facing Crisis in the Social Media Age

Posted by Geri Denterlein on Apr 26, 2017 1:30:00 PM

Editor’s note: Geri Denterlein is CEO and founder of the strategic communications firm Denterlein. She recently conducted a presentation on crisis management to the AIM CEO Connection.

When a crisis breaks are you ready? It happens every day. You get the call:

  • An employee has been seriously injured in one of your plants.
  • A natural disaster has shut down production at a major facility.
  • Workplace violence or a threat has forced the closure of a plant.
  • Your employees are on strike.
  • A major product has been recalled.

Dominoes.jpgFrom an operations perspective, you may have contingency plans in place for a facility shutdown but has your team contemplated the reputational fall-out that will likely result? Who decides whether a situation has the potential to cause reputational damage to your company? And what’s the plan when the answer is: “Yes, it does?”

Spontaneous, catastrophic events can bring production to a screeching halt, quickly and decisively decimating the bottom line and shaking the confidence of consumers, shareholders and distribution partners. In a rapidly changing economy where 90 percent of executives say reputation risk is a key business challenge, the perception of your brand remains closely tied to consumers’ decisions to buy or invest.

“Because of … the internet and globalization, the dominoes of the supply chain are now very close together – and the closer they are, the faster they fall,” says Arash Azadegan, PhD, a professor of supply chain procurement at Rutgers University.

If the unthinkable happens, how will you respond?

A communications plan can guide your company’s responses during a crisis, mitigating the impact on reputation. Being prepared before a situation engulfs your organization can help to ensure consistent messaging and orderly, proactive distribution of critical (often sensitive) information to stakeholders, including employees, distribution partners, shareholders and the media. Advanced planning also ensures that if and when a crisis occurs, you can respond quickly and with some level of transparency, authenticity and accountability.

The collapse of the newspaper industry and rise of social media has transformed the way Americans get their news. Public expectations during a crisis have changed along with it. While leaders of the pre-digital age had the luxury of time to gather all of the facts and formulate a plan – those of today do not. The popularity of social media and Twitter, in particular, makes the demand for immediate information paramount. But facts alone are not enough. Consumers also expect sincerity and some level of accountability.

Ignore any one of these tenants at your own peril.

Learn more about the AIM CEO Connection.

Topics: Management, Manufacturing, Communications

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