At Suffolk University’s Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service, Massachusetts Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Avellone shared his lunch with Boston residents, local political pundits and media, in hopes of conveying a positive vision for the future of the commonwealth. Last week Suffolk hosted Beacon Hill challenger Don Berwick to chat and will continue to host one candidate per week until all have had a chance to relay their messages.
Like Berwick, Avellone made his bones in the medical sector, graduating from Harvard Medical School before earning his Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He spent five years as a resident surgeon at Boston’s prestigious Brigham and Women’s hospital before taking the job as Chief Operating Officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and Chief Executive Officer of Veritas Medicine. He now works as Corporate Senior Vice President at PAREXEL International.
Unlike Berwick, though, Avellone boasts a more global entrepreneurial background that, coupled with his medical experience, will help him achieve one of his biggest goals for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: Controlling healthcare costs to help foster an innovation economy statewide.
“I’ve been to 129 cities and towns, and every one of our so-called gateway cities… Our future lies in jobs, thousands of jobs throughout our state,” Avellone told the lunch crowd at Suffolk. “We must think big.”
Healthcare being his bread and butter, Avellone recognizes that our system in Massachusetts can be held as a national example for others to follow. But plaguing our system is inefficiency and high costs.
A substantial 40 percent of the state budget is dedicated to healthcare, a number that Avellone recognizes is outrageously high especially, given that it sat at a more modest 20 percent 12-years ago. By revamping the healthcare budget and streamlining a methodical delivery system to connect larger groups of specialized physicians to patients in need, Massachusetts can help curtail the annual $29 billion wasted on services that don’t incur outcomes.
“If healthcare goes from 40 percent of the budget to just 39 percent, it frees up $130 million yearly for other initiatives,” said Avellone. Initiatives, he mentioned, that include closing the achievement gap by embracing STEM education, investing heavily in the transit system to better connect various corners of the commonwealth, and fostering business environments that entice cutting-edge industries to have a hand in revitalizing new markets while decreasing unemployment.
It’s safe to say that those three specific facets of the socioeconomics of Massachusetts are Avellone’s top priorities.
Education is the launching pad for all other institutions in the Bay State. It trains future generations for employment, it helps to set delinquents on a path towards fulfillment, and it subsequently helps to generate revenue for the state.
Avellone’s education reform blueprint is reminiscent of a campaign promise made by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. Granted, Walsh’s was on the smaller municipal scale, but Avellone wants to bridge the gap between a workforce often without a college diploma and middle class jobs by way of partnering businesses with local schools. In that respect, schools can reach out to businesses to see what type of training is needed for any specific job and businesses can turn around and hire students to take up internships, entry level positions, and kickstart a budding career.
“Half of STEM jobs don’t require an education past high school… but less than 30% of students are interested in those jobs,” continued Avellone. ” We need to make science cool again.”
And with that he hopes to focus education in high schools and universities on STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – without having to sacrifice classes of arts and culture.
In order for new graduates to attend to their new places of employment, though, they need a reliable means of transportation. While Avellone realizes that mass transit restructuring across Massachusetts is an “ambitious agenda with tough trade-offs,” it’s necessary. Some corners of the state, and in essence most cities west of I-495, are not connected. Avellone, first, wants to improve the South Coast Rail to help reduce traffic congestion for South Shore residents who sit bumper-to-bumper during their daily commutes. This, he hopes, will help spark revitalization in the area, making them more lucrative options for business to settle down and plant their roots. He then hopes to turn his attention to the oft-struggling MBTA for much-need improvements.
For more information on Joe Avellone’s campaign for Governor of Massachusetts, you can check out all of his issues, media items and background information on his website here.