October 3, 2023
CommonWealth Journal

THE LOCAL NONPROFIT Atrius Well being doctor observe group has been cleared on the market to nationwide for-profit Optum Well being, a subsidiary of investor-owned United Healthcare. Legally, the proceeds have to be directed towards charitable functions. We every run well being conversion foundations and know that conversions can proceed the well being legacy of their prior organizations and be forces for huge good, addressing myriad well being points for generations to return.

Massachusetts has a deep-rooted historical past of nonprofit well being care. Our state’s main hospitals, medical health insurance carriers, and first care practices have been structured as tax-exempt organizations devoted to assembly the wants of these searching for care. This mannequin, which has served the Commonwealth nicely by investing extra revenues into expanded providers, amenities, and care choices started to vary within the mid-Nineties as well being care financing and prices made entry to capital harder.

In 1996, the primary gross sales of nonprofit well being care entities occurred within the state as MetroWest Medical Heart, a hospital system, and Central Massachusetts Well being Care, an HMO, had been bought to for-profit entities. Whereas there was a lot debate as as to whether company tax standing impacts well being care entry or high quality, an equally necessary query is how the proceeds from such gross sales are used to assist group well being.

The sale of the hospital and the HMO resulted within the institution of the MetroWest Well being Basis and The Well being Basis of Central Massachusetts, every devoted to serving the wants of the communities served by the prior establishments. Collectively, these two foundations have invested greater than $131 million in grants to native well being and human service tasks that deal with group wants and have supported a wide range of coverage initiatives that deliver long-term methods change and enchancment to the area.

There are various similarities within the foundations’ grantmaking. Each have invested in psychological well being, substance use prevention, well being fairness, and entry to care. Grants have enabled the institution and growth of group well being facilities within the MetroWest and Central Massachusetts areas, together with school-based well being facilities and the addition of optometry and dental care. Each foundations had been early funders of the co-response mannequin to divert folks with psychiatric diseases away from jails and into remedy by embedding licensed psychological well being clinicians inside police departments, permitting them to reply in actual time to requires help. The mannequin has since been replicated in lots of Massachusetts communities.

And but each foundations additionally fill specific niches, with the MetroWest Well being Basis  immediately investing in information assortment and coverage briefs to tell decision-makers and offering scholarships for residents pursuing medication, nursing, and the allied well being professions, whereas The Well being Basis of Central Massachusetts leverages its means to foyer as a 501(c)(4) to realize coverage and methods modifications for community-driven methods knowledgeable by rigorous analysis.

The MetroWest Well being Foundations funding within the MetroWest Adolescent Well being Survey, a biennial census of the danger behaviors of the area’s 42,000 center and highschool college students, has offered useful information for native faculty methods to tailor well being providers and well being schooling lessons to higher serve college students. The survey helped drive the nationwide Tobacco 21 motion. Survey information in Needham, the primary jurisdiction within the nation to set the minimal age to buy tobacco at 21, noticed a big drop in tobacco use amongst teenagers, convincing different municipalities and states to lift their buy age to 21, which is now federal regulation.

The Well being Basis of Central Massachusetts directs the vast majority of its investments to multiyear, multimillion-dollar Synergy Initiative grants geared toward coverage or methods change, with the problems recognized by the group moderately than divined by the muse. One instance could be the Worcester Initiative for Supported Reentry mission, a $2.3 million mission led by Advocates Inc. in partnership with the Worcester County Sheriff’s Workplace, which demonstrated the effectiveness of intensive case administration providers to assist people being launched from jail, leading to a big discount within the recidivism fee. Knowledge-driven advocacy led to broader implementation throughout the state and sustained state funding, together with via a Medicaid pilot.

These are just a few examples of how these “conversion” or “legacy” foundations are striving to enhance well being in Massachusetts in data-driven and sustainable methods. This work is just not with out its challenges, however success is predicated on strong philanthropic rules of listening to, and dealing with, these in the neighborhood; rigorous planning and analysis; and a powerful dedication to transparency and accountability. These are the very rules that may even make sure the success of the brand new Atrius Well being Fairness Basis, because it places proceeds from that sale to work within the coming months.

Martin Cohen is the president and chief government officer of the MetroWest Well being Basis, and he at the moment serves as a member of the Massachusetts Well being Coverage Fee. Amie Shei is the president and chief government officer of The Well being Basis of Central Massachusetts.