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The State of Massachusetts Business 2019

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jan 29, 2019 10:12:55 AM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts President Richard C. Lord delivered his final State of Massachusetts Business address last Friday before an audience of 300 business leaders in Waltham.

Lord said that at a time when there are more job openings than job seekers in New England and throughout the United States, Massachusetts must summon all its creativity and innovation to solve the structural shortage of qualified workers.

 

Topics: Massachusetts economy, Richard Lord, State of Massachusetts Business Address

Video Blog | Gearing Up to Address the Skills Crisis

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jan 28, 2019 8:00:00 AM

A key element to addressing the persistent shortage of skilled workers in Massachusetts will be encouraging collaboration among employers, schools, community colleges, universities and training providers to establish a consistent and logical path from learning to employment.

What will those collaborations look like?

They will probably look a lot like one developed last year by AIM member Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology in Boston and the Prime Motor Group of Westwood, which operates 70 auto dealerships throughout the US.

Prime had for many years hired graduates of Ben Franklin’s automotive technology program, but last year stepped up its involvement with Prime Scholars, a partnership that provides students both financial aid and the opportunity to get real-world training with one of the region’s largest auto groups.

Topics: Education, Workforce Training, Workforce Shortage

Many Job Openings, Few Job Seekers

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jan 25, 2019 11:41:10 AM

At a time when there are more job openings than job seekers in New England and throughout the United States, Massachusetts must summon all its creativity and innovation to solve the structural shortage of qualified workers, AIM President Rick Lord and a group of experts said today.

SOMB2019“There are 6.9 million job openings throughout the United States this morning. There are 6.2 million unemployed people throughout the United States looking for work. Closer to home, there are 51,000 more jobs available in the six New England states than people to fill them,” Lord told an audience of 300 employers during his final State of Massachusetts Business Address.

“The good news is that we live in a commonwealth known for creative solutions to seemingly intractable problems. A state that has produced everything from the game of basketball to the microwave oven to Facebook should certainly be a leader in ensuring that all its citizens share in the economic possibilities that lie ahead.”

Lord offered several recommendations to help Massachusetts employers find the people they need to fuel economic growth:

  • Overhauling the work-force development system to ensure that people of all ages are being taught the skills that employers demand.
  • Ensuring that the public schools provide the basic skills that allow students to compete for jobs that were not even envisioned 20 years ago.
  • Supporting and expanding vocational education.
  • Resolving the immigration issue that has restricted the availability of skilled foreign workers in Massachusetts and other education and technology driven economies.
  • Expanding opportunity to the full diversity of the Massachusetts population. Lord noted that the unemployment rate among people of color exceeds 6 percent in Massachusetts and among Latinos is 5.6 percent.
  • Encouraging collaboration among employers, schools, community colleges, universities and training providers to establish a consistent and logical path from learning to employment.

Lord highlighted several examples of such collaborations, including an initiative by Prime Motor Group to provide scholarships and employment opportunities to automotive technology students at the Benjamin Franklin School of Technology in Boston.

Robin LeClaire, President of Lampin Corporation in Uxbridge, said the 35-person manufacturing company is working on multiple fronts to attract and train people to replace a workforce heavily tilted toward 40 and 50-somethings. The company speaks frequently to middle- and high-school students to let them know that manufacturing offers a rewarding career path to young people who don’t wish to attend college or who cannot afford to do so in the traditional manner.

“They don’t know that there are jobs other than those that require going to college,” said LeClaire.

“We tell them that when they come to Lampin, we’ll pay for them to go to college.”

Massachusetts Secretary of Labor and Work Force Development Rosalin Acosta said it is “astonishing” that the state economy added 185,000 people during 2018 amid a 3.4 percent unemployment rate. She warned, however, that the future work force – people 19 years of age or under – has virtually flattened.

“Where are we going to get all the people employers need, and how are we going to get the right people with the right skills,” Acosta said.

She told the audience that the Baker Administration is focusing its job-training resources on three key areas - manufacturing, health care and information technology.

University of Massachusetts Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said the commonwealth’s formidable lineup of colleges and universities are using internships and other experiential learning to ensure that students have the ability to meet the evolving needs of employers.

“Employers now look for employees who are more job ready that when we went to college,” Subbaswamy said.

Topics: Skills Gap, AIM Executive Forum, Workforce Training

Employer Confidence Weakens in December

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jan 14, 2019 8:30:00 AM

Massachusetts employers gave a big “Bah Humbug” to the year-end economy as business confidence withered in the face of a government shutdown and the largest one-month stock market decline since the Great Depression.

The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) lost three points to 58.6 during December, its lowest level since December 2016. Confidence readings have dropped five points during the past 12 months.

BCI.December.2018The retreat was led by an 8.6-point drop in employer views of the national economy, and a 4.7-point drop among manufacturing companies.

Overall confidence remains within optimistic territory, but less comfortably so than earlier in 2018.

“The Massachusetts economy remains strong, with a 3.3 percent growth rate and an unemployment rate of 3.4 percent, but employers are increasingly concerned about factors such as financial-market volatility, a dysfunctional national political debate and challenges such as the cost of providing health insurance to employees,” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design.

One employer who participated in the survey summarized the uncertainty: “A tremendous amount of unknowns are ahead.”

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.

Constituent Indicators Lower

The constituent indicators that make up the overall Business Confidence Index were mostly lower during December.

The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the commonwealth lost 2.4 points to 64.7, leaving it 2.9 points lower than in December 2017.

The 8.6-point decline in the U.S. Index to 55.1 left employer sentiment about the national economy 9.1 points lower than a year earlier. It marked the lowest reading for the U.S. Index since May 2017.

The Company Index measuring employer assessments of their own operations dropped 1.4 points to 57.8, down 4.3 points year-to-year. The Employment Index gained 1.2 points to 54.4 during the month, leaving it down a modest 2.3 points for the year, while the Sales Index declined 1.6 points in December.

Employers don’t expect to change their outlook anytime soon.

The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, fell 2.6 points last month to 60.0. But the Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, dropped 3.4 points for the month and 7.2 points for the year.

Non-Manufacturers (59.4) were slightly more optimistic than manufacturing companies (57.7), re-establishing a trend that existed for most of 2018. Large companies (60.5) registered higher confidence readings than medium-sized companies (57.3) and small companies (57.7). Companies in Eastern Massachusetts (59.8) were more bullish than those in the west (57.0).

Paul Bolger, President of Massachusetts Capital Resource Company and a member of the BEA, suggested that uncertainty about economic factors such as slowing corporate profits, rising interest rates, and trade are overshadowing employer confidence in what remains a fundamentally strong growth pattern.

“Employers are cautiously watching earnings warnings from Apple and other major brands, while hoping that negotiations between the US and China are able to ratchet down the trade war,” Bolger said.

Eye on Health Costs

AIM President and CEO Richard C. Lord, also BEA member, said moderating the cost of providing health insurance to employees remains the biggest concern for employers who participated in AIM’s biennial Issues Survey in the fall.

That’s one reason, Lord said, that AIM has called upon the Legislature and Governor Charlie Baker to end immediately the two-year assessment imposed on employers last year to close a financial gap at the state’s MassHealth insurance program for low-income residents.

“The assessment is no longer necessary because employers last year paid tens of millions of dollars more than anticipated under the levy. Businesses are on track to contribute some $519 million by the time the assessment sunsets at the end of this year instead of the $400 million envisioned under the 2017 legislation,” Lord said.

Topics: AIM Business Confidence Index, Massachusetts economy, Massachusetts employers

Employers Plan Slight Acceleration of Wages, Salaries in 2019

Posted by Kyle Pardo on Jan 3, 2019 8:30:00 AM

Massachusetts employers plan slightly larger pay increases in 2019 than in 2018, though the projected raises remain below the national average, a new AIM survey has found.

WageIncreases2019The 2018 Associated Industries of Massachusetts HR Practices survey found that employers project a 2.86 percent salary increase for 2019, up from 2.66 percent in 2018. Salary increase budgets have remained less than 3 percent since the recession of 2009, despite a 3.4 percent state unemployment rate and a persistent shortage of qualified workers.

AIM survey participants also project an increase in recruitment activity during 2019. Forty-two percent of employers expect an increase in recruitment activity versus 33 percent last year.

National surveys predict average salary increases of 3.2 percent this year. MassBenchmarks reports that wages and salaries for Massachusetts workers rose an average of 3.2 percent during the second and third quarters.

“With unemployment trending down and the January 1, 2019 minimum-wage increase, HR professionals across the state will continue to face new challenges. They’ll need to stretch payroll budgets; attract, retain and reward top talent; and comply with new and existing requirements across the entire HR spectrum,” said Gary MacDonald, Executive Vice President of AIM HR Solutions, which conducted the survey.

Manufacturing companies anticipate the most generous 2019 salary increases at 2.9 percent.  Service companies expect to boost wages 2.65 percent.

The salary projections come amid a swirl of contradictory economic and regulatory signals ranging from an impending increase to the Massachusetts minimum wage and implementation of paid family and medical leave to a slowdown in cost increases for health insurance.

Health premium increases for HMOs slowed to 6.35 percent during 2018 from 8.32 percent in 2017. Similar price moderation took place within consumer-driven health plans, tiered networks and high-deductible health plans.

Still, rising health premiums continue to force employers to shift costs to employees. Forty-eight percent of companies plan to increase co-payments for HMO plans during 2019, while 33 percent will boost deductibles and 55 percent will increase employee costs.

Eight companies are seeking to control health costs by prohibiting spouses from enrolling in coverage if they have access to health insurance through their own employer.

The Massachusetts minimum wage will increase to $12 per hour in 2019 and then accelerate to $15 per hour by 2023, a shift many employers believe will cause wage compression and drive up annual pay. Premium pay for Sunday retail work will be phased out during the same period.

The HR Practices survey results are based on responses from 170 companies, more than half of them manufacturers.

Download the HR Practices Report

Topics: Compensation, wages, AIM HR Practices Survey

AIM Calls for End to MassHealth Employer Assessment

Posted by Rick Lord on Jan 2, 2019 8:57:01 AM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts and its 4,000 member companies today called upon the Legislature and Governor Charlie Baker to end to the two-year assessment imposed on employers last year to close a financial gap at the state’s MassHealth insurance program for low-income residents.

health_careAIM believes the assessment is no longer necessary because employers last year paid tens of millions of dollars more than anticipated under the levy. Businesses are on track to contribute some $519 million by the time the assessment sunsets at the end of this year instead of the $400 million envisioned under the 2017 legislation.

At the same time, enrollment in MassHealth has fallen as the Baker Administration has initiated steps to ensure that only people eligible for benefits receive them. And state tax collections have exceeded targets over the past several months, putting the state on firmer financial footing.

“The conditions that led to the imposition of the surcharge no longer exist. Employers who have paid hundreds of millions of dollars in assessments believe it is fair to look at ending the surcharge in year two,” said John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

The Legislature passed the assessment in July 2017 minus a set of structural reforms proposed by Governor Baker to place the MassHealth/Medicaid program on a firm financial footing. The assessment fell most heavily upon companies in which employees elect to use MassHealth rather than the employer-sponsored health plan.

The Boston Globe: Employer group balks at fees to prop up MassHealth

An existing assessment called the employer medical assistance contribution (EMAC) increased from $51 to $77 per employee. Employers also were required to pay up to $750 for each worker who receives public health benefits.

Employers may request a waiver from the fees if they prove a hardship. Of 246 such waiver requests, administration officials said they have allowed 99.

Governor Baker originally proposed a $2,000-per-employee assessment upon companies at which at least 80 percent of full-time worker equivalents did not take the company’s offer of health insurance, and that did not make a minimum contribution of $4,950 annual contribution for each full-time worker. That proposal encountered significant opposition from the business community.

AIM member employers are proud to lead the nation in providing health care coverage to their employees. Sixty-five percent of Bay State companies offer health insurance coverage to their workers, compared with 56 percent of employers nationwide. A full 100 percent of Massachusetts employers with 200 or more employees offer coverage. 

Employers stand ready to work with policymakers to make long-term structural reforms to both the MassHealth program and the commercial insurance markets to make the financing of health care for Massachusetts residents sustainable.

“Eleven years ago, employers joined with doctors, hospitals, patient advocates and lawmakers to forge a health-reform law that required all parties to share the responsibility for improving access to health care. The employer community calls for that same sense of shared responsibility now to solve the MassHealth shortfall,” Regan said.

Please contact Katie Holahan, Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM, keh@aimnet.org, for updates on this issue.

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Health Care, Charlie Baker, Employer Health Assessment

The Top Job Creator in Massachusetts

Posted by Melody Howard Ritt on Dec 12, 2018 1:30:00 PM

Lynn Tokarczyk may have helped to create more jobs and business investment in Massachusetts than anyone else.

The founder of the government incentives consulting firm, Business Development Strategies, Inc., (BDS) has assisted more than 100 Massachusetts businesses with creating 10,000 new jobs and retaining another 18,000 jobs. Those companies have saved more than $100 million in state and local taxes and invested more than $1 billion in Massachusetts cities and towns by navigating the often-mystifying maze of state and municipal business incentives with help from the BDS team.

Since its founding in 2003, BDS has built an impressive record of success assisting a “Who’s Who” of prominent companies identify, negotiate and secure tax incentives in the form of Tax Increment Financing (TIF), state tax credits and other tools under the state’s Economic Development Incentive Program.

Like any experienced dealmaker, Tokarczyk makes her work look easy. But the business behind the scenes is anything but simple.

Tokarczyk

Lynn Tokarczyk, second from left, stands with
executives of Analog Devices, a company
she worked with on a state-of-the-art facility in
Wilmington.

BDS has worked on many of the largest expansion and retention projects in the state with companies that include Samsonite, Horizon Beverage, Keurig, New England Ice Cream, MACOM, MilliporeSigma, Moderna Therapeutics, and Waters. The project list also includes

  • Technology and manufacturing giant, Analog Devices, which broke ground on a state-of-the-art facility at their current campus in Wilmington after securing a TIF with assistance from BDS. The $150 million project will boost the local economy and create an attractive hub for advanced manufacturers in the area.
  • IPG Photonics, the world’s leading developer and manufacturer of high-performance fiber lasers, has relied on BDS for assistance with tax incentives for nearly two decades. Last summer, IPG turned to BDS again for help with securing a TIF for a $70 million expansion in Oxford. The new facilities will allow IPG to retain 1,550 jobs and create 400 new jobs.

Tokarczyk started her career as the founder and owner of an upscale women’s clothing boutique, where she honed her skills in sales and business. She took those skills in a new direction when she joined the Massachusetts Office of Business Development (MOBD) as a project manager, and later, an MOBD regional director. Recruited by Ernst & Young as manager for the New England Area State and Local Tax Incentives practice, Tokarczyk rose to become a senior manager before starting her own consulting firm.

Upon launching BDS, Tokarczyk quickly became known as an innovative leader whose entrepreneurial spirit, competitive nature and diplomatic skills were having a positive impact on the state’s business community.

The global pet products manufacturer and distributor, Rolf C. Hagen, first contacted BDS in 2003 when it needed to expand its Mansfield operations. Fifteen years later, the company returned to BDS for assistance with securing tax incentives for a second expansion of its USA headquarters and distribution center.

The travel site, TripAdvisor, reached out to BDS when the company was planning a multi-million dollar real estate expansion in Needham. Even though the town had never before approved a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) package, the BDS team fast-tracked the process to completion in just three months.

A member of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the Board of Trustees of the Milford Regional Healthcare Foundation and several Chambers of Commerce, Tokarczyk shares her skills with a wide range of organizations. Named 2017 Business Person of the Year by the Tri-Town Chamber of Commerce and included in the New England Real Estate Journal’s 2018 Women in Real Estate, she is a frequent speaker at Economic Development forums.

Drawing from lessons learned early in her career, Tokarczyk tailors her consulting services to each client’s needs. “We manage the entire tax incentive process for our clients and we work round the clock to ensure that projects have a positive outcome,” she describes.

“We strive to be the best in the business by consistently earning our reputation for excellence.”

 

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts economy, Economic Development, Jobs

How to Help Employees Find Appropriate Health Care

Posted by Katie Holahan on Dec 11, 2018 3:10:01 PM

A coalition of employers led by AIM and the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation today unveiled resources to help employers speak to workers about the benefits of receiving medical care outside of hospital emergency rooms.

ER.2018The Massachusetts Employer Health Coalition plans to work with employers, employees, doctors, hospitals, and health insurers to reduce inappropriate use of emergency departments by 20 percent in two years. State officials estimate that a significant number of ED visits are potentially avoidable, a pattern that costs $300-$350 million annually for commercially insured members.

At a kickoff breakfast in Boston, Coalition officials previewed sample social media posts, newsletter articles and posters that employers might use to help employees obtain “the right care, in the right place at the right price at the right time.” Also among the resources is a document called “My Care, My Options” that allows workers to identify alternatives to emergency rooms, including their primary care physician, urgent-care center and retail clinic.

The Massachusetts Health Policy Commission says that one out of three Massachusetts residents who get health insurance through their employers reported that their last visit to an emergency room was for a non-emergency condition. The most common non-emergency conditions for which people seek treatment in the ER were neck pain, hives, sciatica, sinus infections and bronchitis.

Download the Employer Resources

Almost three-quarters of non-emergency visits to the ER are for care needed outside the normal operating house at the doctor’s office. The average visit to an emergency room costs $1,220, while the average bill for treatment at a doctor’s office is $165.

Companies such as AIM member Cummings Properties of Woburn have successfully worked with their employees for many years to create a system in which 80 percent of all medical care is delivered by high-quality community health organizations.

Bill Grant, CFO of Cummings, an AIM director and chair of the association's Health Care Committee, said the company also offers a wellness program that identifies issues such as high cholesterol that need additional attention.

But employers also acknowledge the challenge of communicating the importance of seeking care in appropriate settings.

“For us, it’s about communicating the value proposition for the individual employee…what’s in it for them,” said Lisa Collentro, Chief Administrative Officer, Chestnut Hill Realty another AIM member.

Employer coalitions in other areas of the country have already made progress curbing unnecessary use of emergency departments. Louise Probst, Executive Director of a regional health improvement collaborative serving the state of Missouri, and the St. Louis Area Business Health Coalition, told 150 people at this morning’s coalition kickoff that her organizations saw a 5 percent decrease in emergency-room visits from 2016 to 2017.

“There was a lot of shared interest” among employers, physicians, insurers, hospitals and others seeking to control the cost of health insurance, she said.

The St. Louis effort is paying measurable dividends,” Probst said:

  • Employers are talking about their emergency department usage rates and avoidable visits.
  • New worksite clinics are emerging, and roles of established clinics being reconsidered.
  • Primary care physicians are working with patients to develop alternatives to ER visits. Some medical groups have implemented condition-specific action plans for chronic diseases such as urinary tract infections or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
  • Two orthopedic practices have walk-in hours each evening.

The Employer Health Coalition is made up of 22 business organizations and five “strategic partners’ from the health-care industry.

Topics: Health Care Costs, Controlling Health Care Costs, Health Insurance

Business Confidence Recovers in November

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Dec 11, 2018 7:47:22 AM

Business confidence in Massachusetts recovered slightly during November amid a swirl of contradictory economic indicators ranging from agitated financial markets to international trade tensions to steady but slowing growth in the Bay State.

BCI.November.2018The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) gained 0.6 points to 61.6 in November, ending a three-month slide that brought confidence to its lowest level in more than a year.

The November reading was one point lower than in November 2017 and 2.5 points lower than at the beginning of the year.

Increased optimism about the state and national economies balanced employer concerns about their own operations and hiring plans during November. The reading remained well within optimistic territory, but employers are clearly also seeing risk on the horizon.

“The survey reflects the uncertainty facing employers amid a still-strong state and national economy,” said Raymond G. Torto, Chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and Lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Design.

“Employers are increasingly confident in the economy but less so in the prospects for their own companies and in their own hiring plans. Economic growth remained at a solid 3.3 percent in Massachusetts for the third quarter, but that was a slowdown from earlier in the year. Payroll employment was up for the quarter but weakened in August and September.”

One employer who participated in the survey summarized the uncertainty:

“We are up double digits, but tariffs are negatively impacting our … prices and lead times. Looking forward to more stable times.”

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.

Constituent Indicators

The constituent indicators that make up the overall Business Confidence Index were mixed during November. 

The Massachusetts Index assessing business conditions within the commonwealth rose 2.4 points to 67.1, leaving it 1.9 points higher than in November 2017.

The U.S. Index gained 2.1 points to 63.7, up 1.5 points from a year earlier.

The Company Index measuring employer assessments of their own operations dropped 0.4 points to 59.2, down 3.1 points year-to-year. The Employment Index slid 3.8 points for the month while the Sales Index was up 2.3 points.

The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, fell 0.7 points last month to 62.6 and 0.8 points for the year. The Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, gained 2.1 points for the month and lost 1.1 points for the year.

Manufacturers (62.4) were slightly more optimistic than non-manufacturing companies (60.8), reversing a trend that has existed for most of 2018. Companies in the eastern part of Massachusetts (64.0) were significantly more bullish than those in the west (58.5).

Large companies (62.3) and medium-sized companies (62.4) registered higher confidence readings than small companies (59.7).

Michael A. Tyler, CFA, Chief Investment Officer, Eastern Bank Wealth Management and a member of the BEA, suggested that the wide swings in employer views of the overall economy and their own prospects may reflect growing discomfort with some emerging trends.

“Employers remain generally optimistic about a Massachusetts economy running at 3.5 percent unemployment and a growth rate of more than 3 percent. At the same time, the slowing housing market, rising interest rates, and continued uncertainty about trade are clearly causing concern,” Tyler said.

Post-Election Economy

AIM President and CEO Richard C. Lord, also BEA member, said employers at least have a clearer view of the political landscape now that the 2018 mid-term elections are completed.

“The prospect of divided government in which Democrats will control the US House of Representatives and Republicans the Senate and the White House provides some assurance to employers who do not relish policy lurches to the left or right,” Lord said.

Topics: AIM Business Confidence Index, Massachusetts economy, Massachusetts employers

Employers Launch Effort to Reduce Unnecessary ER Use

Posted by Katie Holahan on Dec 4, 2018 9:00:00 AM

A coalition of employers led by AIM and the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation will formally initiate a campaign on December 11 to moderate the cost of health care by reducing avoidable use of hospital emergency departments (EDs).

EmergencyThe Massachusetts Employer Health Coalition will work with employers, employees, doctors, hospitals, and health insurers to reduce inappropriate use of emergency departments by 20 percent in two years. State officials estimate that a significant number of ED visits are potentially avoidable, a pattern that costs $300-$350 million annually for commercially insured members.

The good news is that employer coalitions in other areas of the country have already succeeded in curbing unnecessary use of emergency departments. The Massachusetts groups plan to kick off their initiative on the 11th with a breakfast at which they will hear comments from Louise Probst, Executive Director of a regional health improvement collaborative serving the state of Missouri, and the St. Louis Area Business Health Coalition, an employer coalition supporting more than 60 leading, self-insured employers.

In addition to Ms. Probst, a panel including AIM members will discuss cost savings initiatives they have implemented, as well as the challenges to reducing health-care costs for both large and small employers.

Register for the Coalition Kickoff

“The rising cost of providing health insurance to employees remains the most pressing issue facing the 4,000 employers who are members of Associated Industries of Massachusetts,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

“The Massachusetts Employer Health Coalition is a great example of employers stepping up and taking action to ensure that their workers can access the right care in the right place, maximizing both health care quality and affordability.”

The objective, according to Lord, is to reduce health-care costs and provide rate relief for small businesses and patients, while optimizing resources to ensure quality care for those in need of emergency care.

Most ED use is necessary, appropriate, and in many cases life-saving. However, providers and payers broadly agree that shifting ED use for non-urgent health problems to more timely, appropriate settings will improve quality and patient experience, and lower the cost of care.

The cost of an ED visit can be five times that of care provided in a primary care or urgent care setting. Upper respiratory infections, skin rashes, allergies, and back pain are among the most common conditions for which Massachusetts patients seek care in the ED unnecessarily.

The Coalition is expected to use the December 11 event to unveil resources that employers will use to engage with their workers about the importance of seeking medical care in appropriate settings. These resources will include educational materials, along with procedures to help employers and employees identify local care options.

AIM plans to provide links to the resources for its employer members.

The Coalition plans to focus on four tactics for change:

  1. Educating Employees: Work with employers to communicate information about avoidable ED use with employees and families so they can get the best possible care in settings such as primary care practices, retail clinics, and urgent care centers.
  2. Learning from Data: Track and publicly report the rate of avoidable ED visits so employers, stakeholders, and the public may understand and tackle the scope of the issue.
  3. Collaborating Across the Health Care System: Work with labor unions, health care providers, health plans, employers, and employees to reward and encourage the appropriate use of the ED by aligning financial incentives, and bolster the availability of care in the community, especially during nights and weekends.
  4. Advocating for Policy Change: Advocate for policy changes that will advance new care delivery and payment models, such as Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), telemedicine, and mobile integrated health, which combined, can improve access to timely care in the right setting.

Topics: Health Care Costs, Controlling Health Care Costs, Health Insurance

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