CommonWealth’s most-read commentary pieces of 2021 covered the waterfront
Essays on topics from health care to history challenged our thinking on a range of issues
WE ARE EAGER to have CommonWealth serve as a forum for healthy debate and the exchange of strongly argued points of view from a range of voices across the state. The most widely read op-ed pieces from 2021 certainly hit that mark in some ways, with commentary offerings from a sixth-grade student and one of the state’s US senators among the 10 opinion pieces that drew the most readers. We also found, appropriately enough, that pieces reaching back to draw on the state’s rich history can have real staying power, as one of the top 10 pieces this year was first published two years ago, in 2019.
When it comes to the topics dominating the list, it should perhaps be no surprise that health care, an area in which Massachusetts is a world leader in, emerged as the subject leader. Two of the three most widely read pieces related to concern over expansion plans by dominant health care providers in the state, while two more of the top 10 pieces related to health care or health issues.
The most widely read piece was a strongly argued op-ed offered in November by Douglas Brown against proposed expansion plans of Mass General Brigham, the state’s largest health care provider. Brown, the chief administrative officer at UMass Memorial Health in Worcester, said Mass General Brigham’s proposed expansion plans, including new ambulatory care centers in Westborough, Weston, and Woburn, have put our health care system “at a crossroads.”
Brown says the greater good of a financially sound “ecosystem” of health care providers is being jeopardized by Mass. General Brigham’s quest for an ever-larger piece of the health care pie – particularly the share of patients covered by commercial insurance, which pays much more for services than government coverage through Medicare and Medicaid.
Brown said he is looking to state regulatory authorities to address the threat he sees posed to health care in the state. “We cannot blame Mass General Brigham’s leaders for this situation,” he wrote. “Most health care leaders in their shoes would do the same thing: maximize their advantages within the rules and take what they can to further the interests of their organization and its patients. It is up to our government to fix this.”
Here are the 10 most widely read CommonWealth commentary pieces of 2021.
- “Stark differences make many Mass. communities neighbors in name only” May 1
Garrett Dash Nelson, the president and head curator of the Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library, offers an eye-opening view on the role municipal boundaries have played in dividing communities in Massachusetts. Read it here.
- “Time to plug gaps in Medicare coverage” September 4
Sen. Edward Markey and Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan, president and CEO of the CareQuest Institute for Oral Health, make the case for expanding Medicare to cover dental care, vision, and hearing services. Read it here.
- “How modern leaders got John Winthrop’s ‘City on a Hill’ wrong” January 19, 2019
Carter Wilkie’s 2019 essay on a book reconsidering John Winthrop’s famous “City on a Hill” speech continues to draw readers, as he argues that the speech has been wrongly appropriated as an anthem to American exceptionalism rather than the expression of humility it was meant to be. Read it here.
- “Jerome Rappaport and the destruction of Boston’s West End” December 10
When Jerome Rappaport died in December, there was considerable attention paid to his role as a leading developer, philanthropist, and civic leader in Boston. In separate essays, former Boston planning official Jim Vrabel and political scientist Peter Dreier offered accounts of another major chapter in Rappaport’s public profile – his role in the razing of Boston’s working class West End neighborhood and replacing it with luxury housing. Read it here.
- “Maverick Square, which honors the state’s first slave owner, should be renamed” April 17
Annamarie Hoey, a Cambridge sixth-grader, tells the little known story of Samuel Maverick, the state’s first slave owner, and argues that the East Boston square that bears his name should be renamed. Read it here.
- “FDA must ban menthol cigarettes this time” May 15
- “Lawrence no longer city of the damned” January 30
Lane Glenn, the president of Northern Essex Community College, recounts all the ways Lawrence, once famously derided in a 2011 magazine headline as the “city of the damned,” has made progress over the last decade. Read it here.
- “Another wealthy hospital system expanding in to the suburbs” July 17
Dr. Paul Hattis says Boston Children’s Hospital’s plans for suburban expansion, like those of Mass General Brigham, will not serve the greater health care good. Read it here.
- “Reverse the curse: pedestrianize Storrow Drive” November 13
- “At Mass General Brigham, when is enough enough?” November 6
Douglas S. Brown says it’s time to put the brakes on expansion plans by the state’s largest health care provider. Read it here.