MHA Board Names Walsh President & CEO

MHA Board Names Steve Walsh President and CEO

The Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association (MHA) Board of Trustees today named current Executive Director of the Massachusetts Council of Community Hospitals (MCCH), Steve Walsh, as the organization’s next president and CEO, effective November 1.

Walsh replaces Lynn Nicholas, FACHE, who has served as MHA president and CEO since September 2007 and who earlier this year announced her retirement.

“We are extremely fortunate to have someone with Steve’s combined depth of experience and enthusiasm to lead MHA,” said Kate Walsh, president and CEO of Boston Medical Center and MHA Board chair. “His vision for the future of our commonwealth’s hospitals, health systems and other affiliated caregivers will undoubtedly be a great asset given that healthcare at the national level is in flux and the pace of reform continues in Massachusetts.”

The MHA Board selected Walsh following a six-month search led by Witt/Kieffer, a nationally recognized executive search firm.
“MHA considered a wide array of exceptionally qualified candidates and Steve’s combination of healthcare knowledge, vision for where healthcare is heading, and leadership to achieve that vision clearly stood out,” said Keith A. Hovan, president & CEO of Southcoast Health, who served as chair of the 10-member search committee. “We look forward to working with Steve as he assumes leadership of the association at this vital time for all hospitals and health systems across the commonwealth.” 

“I am profoundly honored to have been selected by the MHA Board of Trustees,” Walsh said. “Lynn Nicholas’ leadership as president and CEO of MHA has had a significantly positive impact on our hospitals, health systems and most importantly, patients, and I am excited to continue that good work.

“Massachusetts hospitals and health systems are not about brick and mortar facilities, but rather the people inside of those facilities – patients and caregivers. Our state’s hospitals and health systems are critical to both the health and well-being of our residents and to a healthy and thriving economy. At this time of unprecedented change and uncertainty in healthcare, my goal is to ensure our hospitals and health systems remain well positioned to deliver on their mission of providing exceptional care and service to patients.”

Walsh, a member of the American College of Health Care Executives (ACHE), has led the Massachusetts Council of Community Hospitals since 2014. During his tenure as executive director, Walsh worked with executives from 25 Massachusetts healthcare institutions representing 35 facilities to promote and drive innovative change in healthcare delivery, policy, and regulation. He came to MCCH after serving six terms in the Massachusetts House of Representatives as the representative of the 11th Essex District, serving portions of Lynn and Nahant. He was appointed House Chairman of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing in 2011.

Walsh has spent his career advocating for affordable and accessible healthcare for families and small businesses. As chairman of the Health Care Financing Committee, he oversaw the drafting and passage of the commonwealth’s 2012 landmark healthcare payment and delivery reform law, Chapter 224. That legislation encouraged use of alternative payment methodologies and investment in community health, while promoting patient empowerment and primary care. He was also a member of the legislative conference committee that drafted Chapter 288 of the Acts of 2010, the commonwealth's small business healthcare legislation.

Walsh is a native of Lynn, Mass., and is a graduate of Wesleyan University, the New England School of Law, and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He is an active member of the Greater Lynn community, and serves on the boards of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, LynnArts, Inc., St. Jean’s Credit Union, and the Agganis Foundation.

State’s Healthcare Cost Growth is Below Benchmark

The Massachusetts growth rate for total healthcare spending was 2.8% for 2016, well below the state benchmark of 3.6%, according to a new report from the state’s Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA).

In the previous two years (4.8% in 2015 and 4.2% in 2014), the growth rate exceeded the state-set benchmark.

In its report, the state teases out the various parts of the Massachusetts healthcare system to determine how each sector came in above or below the benchmark. As in previous years, pharmacy spending exceeded the mark and hospital inpatient expenses were below the benchmark. However, this year, hospital outpatient expenses exceeded the benchmark for the first time. CHIA did not have an explanation for outpatient expense growth and the Health Policy Commission said the issue merits further attention.

MHA President & CEO Lynn Nicholas, FACHE said, “It is likely that a number of factors are propelling this change, including the transition of increasingly complex surgery from inpatient to outpatient settings, more encouragement for patients to have diagnostic/preventive screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies, higher costs for pharmaceuticals that are administered in outpatient settings, and growing use of observation services, which are considered outpatient care while physicians determine whether a patient needs to be admitted. Hospitals have been investing heavily in outpatient care and ambulatory care facilities to be able to provide care in the most appropriate setting, in line with state and federal policy directives.  It’s possible that CHIA’s most recent report is reflective of this investment.”

House Votes on MHA Budget Priority to Restore MassHealth Funding

The Massachusetts House on Wednesday voted to restore the $220 million to MassHealth that Governor Charlie Baker had vetoed out of the $39.4 billion state budget he had signed in July.

The MassHealth funding restoration was part of $275 million in budget cuts the House overrode Wednesday night. The Senate is expected to take up the overrides later this fall.

In an August 1 letter to legislative leaders, MHA had pushed for the restoration of the $220 million to MassHealth. MHA had argued that the governor had argued that the MassHealth cut would be necessary if an increase in the employer assessment was not approved. That employer assessment was, in fact, ultimately approved.

“In our opinion, the legislature’s budget was balanced with the inclusion of the $200 million employer contribution, and now with its restoration there is no valid reason for the $200 million reduction ...,” MHA wrote.

In remarks on the House floor reported by State House News Service, Ways & Means Committee Chairman Jeffrey Sánchez (D-Mission Hill) defended the veto override despite uncertainty with revenue collections. “We believe the spending vetoes cut too deeply to important programs and services our communities rely on,” Sánchez said. “We will restore funding for pediatric palliative care, HIV/AIDS treatment, for MassHealth to ensure full funding of the projected caseload, and for senior health care. The conference report was a balanced budget that reflected our priorities and today we will return several accounts to the conference committee levels.”

Bringing Good Dental Care to Underserved Areas

The Joint Committee on Public Health on Tuesday heard testimony on a bill that would create a new level of dental practice – Advance Dental Hygiene Practitioners (ADHP) – to help deliver care to under-served patients across the commonwealth, including many children. MHA is a member of the Dental Care for Mass Coalition that strongly supports the bill, whose lead sponsors are Sen. Majority Leader Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester) and  Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli (D-Lenox).

Under SB1169/HB2474 the ADHPs, once they have successfully completed additional training, would be able to deliver basic dental care; they would practice under the general supervision of a dentist and take advantage of telehealth and electronic health record technology to share patient records with dentists and consult with them on complicated cases.

Across the commonwealth there are 61 federally designated dentist shortage areas containing 244,000 residents with unmet dental care needs. According to the Pew Center on the States, 47% of children in the MassHealth program did not see a dentist in 2014.

Notably, Baker Health & Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders testified at the hearing in support of the establishment of ADHPs as Governor Baker included the creation of these practitioners as part of his MassHealth reform savings legislation that he filed as an amendment to the FY18 budget.

Cutting Red Tape: Three New Prior Authorization Forms

The Mass Collaborative, of which MHA is a founding member along with insurance companies and providers, last week had one of its prior authorization initiatives approved by the Department of Insurance (DoI).

DoI signed off on three new prior authorization forms relating to Hepatitis C medication, non-obstetric ultrasound, and Synagis (an FDA-approved prescription injection used to prevent certain lung disease).

Having a standard prior authorization form posted on DoI’s website or on the Mass Collaborative website cuts through the red tape of having individual forms from each insurance company with which a provider contracts. Chapter 224 requires DOI to develop and implement standard forms for all services requiring prior authorization.  Once fully implemented, these forms must be used by all providers and accepted by all Massachusetts licensed health plans.

There is a 90-day roll-out period for use of the paper version of the form, and a 6-month roll-out period for updates to any electronic version. Health plans and providers must begin using the paper version of the forms by December 11, 2017, and compliant electronic versions by March 12, 2018.


Alan Macdonald, the president and CEO of Hallmark Health System since March 2015, has announced his intention to resign from the post and to rejoin the system’s board of trustees. Hallmark announced it will begin a search and that Macdonald will remain in his post until a successor is found. Macdonald is credited with stabilizing the system after the previous CEO left suddenly and after merger talks with Partners HealthCare broke down. He then helped engineer the deal that affiliated Hallmark with Wellforce, the parent company of Tufts Medical Center and Circle Health. Macdonald served on the MHA Board of Trustees for more than 10 years, was previously executive director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable. He has earned the respect and admiration of many in the healthcare, business, and policymaking fields for his achievements over the course of an impressive career.

WEBINAR: The Evolving Threat of Cybercrime in Hospitals

Thursday, September 21; 1 to 2:30 p.m.

Cybercrime in hospital settings has evolved in a dangerous fashion. According to a report released by the Ponemon Institute earlier this year, 90% of healthcare organizations suffer data breaches. Close to 45% of all data breaches in the sector are due to criminal activity such as nation-state cyber espionage units, ransomware, malicious insiders, and physical theft of patient information, clinical research and pharmaceutical formulations.

Last October Johnson & Johnson warned that one of its insulin pumps was at risk of being hacked via wifi. Keycard systems are being remotely hacked, opening the door to potential breaches. Three new factors are accelerating the problem: 1) Ransomware is increasingly being written to execute Javascript instructions, which means viruses can be hidden in PDFs and browsers; 2) The people that write this malware are now offering it out on commission, taking a cut of the ransom as opposed to attacking targets themselves; and 3) Social media profiles of hospital employees are being “scraped” to fine tune targeting of phishing emails.

This up-to-date session examines recent cybercrime occurrences across both hospital software and devices, determines how they happened, and provides steps to take to lessen the chance of one of the new breed of attacks at your institution. More details are here; instructions on how to access the webinar will be provided upon registration.

John LoDico, Editor