H-P chief: Medicare for all debate is good

The chief executive of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care doesn’t want the government to take over the entire health insurance business – at least until after he retires –  but he sees some advantages to the movement seeking an expansion of Medicare so that government-backed insurance covers everyone.

For one, Harvard Pilgrim CEO Michael Carson thinks Medicare for All – a rallying cry among many Democrats – is part of an important discussion to have. For another, Carson said, the best plan is a middle way that involves more collaboration between the government and private insurers.

Carson shared his thoughts about potential changes big and small to the health care marketplace with Paul Hattis, an associate professor at the Tufts University Medical School, and John McDonough of the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, during the “Health or Consequences” Codcast.

McDonough asked Carson about California Sen. Kamala Harris’s endorsement of a system to eliminate private health insurance.

“Let’s wait until I retire,” Carson joked.

In seriousness, Carson said he thinks a combination of approaches is likely the best path forward.

“At the end of the day, it’s a joint solution. I don’t think it’s a single-payer, government programs, no-private-health-insurance organization solution. I think it’s a combination,” Carson said.

Carson, who was profiled recently by the Boston Globe, is a former soccer player and US Air Force veteran who grew up outside of Frankfurt. Part of Carson’s reticence about a completely government-run health insurance system appears to stem from his upbringing. Carson recalled that his mother, when they were living in Germany, would receive a limited number of certificates to see the doctor.

“Going to a program like that is going to mean changes in how we access health care, because if we just think it’s free health care and access is unlimited, those costs are going to spiral really out of control,” Carson said.

Under Carson, who took over at Harvard Pilgrim last year, the company is looking to expand its business with government programs and the insurer could possibly re-enter the state’s Medicaid program, MassHealth, he said.

Carson also discussed the proposed merger between Harvard Pilgrim and Partners HealthCare, which fell apart last year. Noting Harvard Pilgrim’s joint-venture relationships with three hospital systems in New Hampshire and some risk-sharing deals with providers in Massachusetts, Carson said the discussions with Partners stemmed from consideration about how best to serve the insurer’s members.

“There were lots of benefits that could have come from that,” Carson said of the now-scuttled merger idea. “It’s not easy just to slam a provider and a health insurance company together,” Carson said. “It didn’t come together at the time.”

Carson also reported that, after some “tough financial years” between 2014 and 2016, when insurers were adjusting to the Affordable Care Act, Harvard Pilgrim has had two good financial years in 2017 and 2018, owing both to overall market conditions and also to tighter cost management at Harvard Pilgrim.

–ANDY METZGER


BEACON HILL

House Speaker Robert DeLeo says the House will consider legislation to replace any federal funding for women’s reproductive health centers. (MassLive)

The biggest funder of the conservative Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance is a separate nonprofit it founded that doesn’t have to reveal information about its donors, a setup that watchdogs are criticizing. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Eastham Town Planner Paul Lagg says the town is still negotiating with Stratford Capital Group of Peabody over what to do with a former golf driving range. The company says it wants to build rental apartments, primarily for moderate-income people, on the former driving range on Route 6. (Cape Cod Times)

Lynn’s real estate market is heating up. A developer pays $4 million for a 30-apartment complex on Western Avenue. (Daily Item)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Special Counsel Robert Mueller says there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign in the 2016 election, but he stops short of exonerating President Trump on the question of obstruction of justice, according to a summary of the investigation released by Attorney General William Barr. (Washington Post) Alan Dershowitz criticizes the idea of raising damaging information about potential obstruction — without a conclusion that there is enough evidence to support such a charge. (Boston Globe)

At a town hall in Danvers, Congressman Seth Moulton said the entire Mueller report should be made publicly available, he is still considering whether to run for president, and said, “People who voted for Trump aren’t bad Americans.” (Gloucester Daily Times)

ELECTIONS

Three Tufts students — Mallory Warner, Simone Lewis, and Noah Shamusissue a warning: Don‘t fly over Mayor Pete. (CommonWealth)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Union official Louis Antonellis argues in favor of redeveloping the hulking Boston Edison plant in South Boston. (CommonWealth)

EDUCATION

The mother of another female student in North Andover has come forward about the safety plan her daughter signed that threatens her with suspension if she does not keep away from her ex-boyfriend whom she alleges sexually assaulted her on multiple occasions. (Eagle-Tribune)

Should companies focus less on college GPAs in making recruitment and internship decisions? (Boston Globe)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Massachusetts leads the nation in the rate of underage drinking among those aged 12 to 20 years old. (Boston Herald)

TRANSPORTATION

Jim Aloisi and Ari Ofsevit of TransitMatters offer their takeaways on Massport’s aggressive push to deal with congestion at Logan International Airport. Aloisi  says inaction is not an option with ride hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft, while Ofsevit suggests a solution to the Logan “donut hole” — the early morning and late-night hours when transit service is not available at Logan. (CommonWealth)

Speaking of Ofsevit, the MIT transportation whiz went on a blind date that was featured in  Dinner with Cupid. (Boston Globe)

The US Army Corps of Engineers says the Bourne Bridge will be down to two lanes beginning today as maintenance work to replace damaged roadway joints begins that will continue until around May 23. (Cape Cod Times)

A Globe editorial says it’s time to get moving on adopting regulations to permit motorized scooters on Boston area streets.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Plymouth and Hull will receive $426,377 worth of grants from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s wastewater treatment pilot program to support technical advancements at their wastewater treatment facilities. (Patriot Ledger

US Sen. Ed Markey and US Rep. Jim McGovern bring the Green New Deal to liberal ground zero in Massachusetts — Northampton. (Western Mass. Politics & Insight)

The Herald News describes bystanders witnessing the demolition of the Brayton Point power plant’s chimneys.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Police body cameras aren’t having the impact many expected. (Governing)

Margaret Monsell analyzes the “wolf” of solitary confinement. (CommonWealth)

Former Quincy police officer Keith Wilbur has been sentenced to state prison after pleading guilty to charges connected to a January 2017 armed standoff at his home. (Patriot Ledger)

MEDIA

The Mueller report, and the absence of new charges, is a death blow to the reputation of the American news media, says Mike Taibbi of Rolling Stone. At the very least, the outcome raises anew criticisms of the media. (Washington Post)

Robert Kraft’s apology on Saturday for his pursuit of happy endings at a Florida massage parlor prompted a lot of reactions. Deadspin said everyone in the news media fell for it. The Globe’s Bob Hohler works the apology into a lengthy front-page retrospective of Kraft’s life complete with quotes from friends suggesting he will rebound. The Boston Herald’s Wendy Murphy calls it a “poor apology.”