Total spending on health care in Massachusetts topped $50 billion in 2013, an increase of 2.3 percent that fell below the state's cost growth benchmark and largely reflected similar national trends in slowed spending growth rates, according to a new report. The Center for Health Information Analysis, a state agency created by the 2012 health care cost containment law, on Tuesday released the first-ever analysis of total health care expenditures in Massachusetts. The report found that public spending on health care for Medicare and Medicaid made up 60 percent of the state's total spending on health care, with the average per capita cost of health care totaling $7,550 per resident. While spending growth came in below the 3.6 percent growth benchmark outlined in a 2012 cost containment law, total expenditures still grew faster than the 1.5 percent inflation rate and costs remain among the highest in the country, according to CHIA. The report also show that premiums and member cost-sharing vary "substantially" between groups and the adoption of alternative payment methods to the traditional fee-for-service model "stalled in 2013 among payers and providers." The state's largest insurer - Blue Cross Blue Shield - and its largest physician group - Partners Community HealthCare - posted the largest spending increases reported by CHIA. The center's executive director, Aron Boros, gave a public briefing on the report Tuesday morning.


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Regional EPA Administrator Curt Spalding plans on Wednesday to announce "high marks" for water quality in the Charles River. Spalding plans to join MWRA Executive Director Fred Laskey, Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Commissioner Gary Moran, and Taunton Sen. Marc Pacheco at the Museum of Science Pavilion for an 11 a.m. event to discuss the EPA's water quality report card. - M. Norton/SHNS


The Massachusetts House on Tuesday did its best impersonation of an alcohol licensing board and a human resources office. With a skeleton crew on hand the day after Labor Day and a week before the primary elections, the House advanced bills granting special alcoholic beverage licensing authority to officials in Boston, Milton, Hudson, Mansfield and Topsfield. The Boston bill (H 4099), which was also enacted by the Senate, specifies licenses for Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center at Boston Harbor Islands National Park Area; the Commonwealth Lodge #19 at the West End House, 105 Allston Street; the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers Inc. at 61 Columbia Road; the Mt. Pleasant Knights of Columbus at 5250 Washington Street; the Monserrat Aspirers Inc. at 358 Washington Street; the Skating Club of Boston at 1240 Soldiers Field Road, Brighton; the Syria Temple #31 at 1 Darlington Street, and the Brighton Knights of Columbus at 323 Washington Street. The House also advanced three bills authorizing employees at two state agencies to donate sick, personal, and vacation days to named colleagues. The House on Tuesday also gave final approval to a former Sen. Michael Knapik bill establishing the 104th fighter wing fire department to provide air crash crew and fire protection services on the Barnes Air National Guard Base. Legislation authorizing officials in Sturbridge to grant tax abatements to military personnel was also approved, as well as a Rep. Brian Mannal bill (H 4336), filed in July that authorizes the town of Barnstable to make improvements to private roads with "common usage" by the general public. The Senate passed a resolve (S 1134) sponsored by Sen. Jamie Eldridge that would task a group of volunteer policymakers to investigate the current state of suicide prevention among correctional officers and inmates, and ways it could be improved. The report would be due March 2016. - M. Norton, A. Metzger/SHNS


Independent gubernatorial candidate Scott Lively said he would drop his longshot bid if Tea Party Republican Mark Fisher beats frontrunner Charlie Baker in the Sept. 9 Republican primary and has a chance in the general. Lively, a Springfield preacher whose anti-gay rhetoric has caught the attention of hate speech watchdogs, said Fisher is a "genuine conservative" and referred to Baker as a RINO, or Republican In Name Only. "If Mark can win the primary, I have promised to defer to his candidacy and bow out of the race should he make a strong showing approaching the general election. I will not be the reason an authentic conservative Republican would lose the governor's seat," Lively wrote in a Tuesday morning email. Lively said he would do "everything in my power to defeat" Baker, predicting his own campaign would be "virtually certain to win a large number of conservative votes in November." He said, " On September 9th, Vote for Mark Fisher." A Southern Poverty Law Center file on Lively said he came to prominence in the early 1990s as part of the Oregon Citizens Alliance and was active in the American Family Association in California where he launched Abiding Truth Ministries. Lively moved to the Springfield area in 2008, according to the SPLC, and has promoted anti-gay philosophy in Uganda and Latvia. A Public Policy Polling survey in March 2012 found 58 percent of Bay State voters approve of same-sex marriage's legality, and 86 percent support gay marriage or civil unions. "Charlie is working to earn 100% of the vote and is confident his experience cutting taxes 27 times and reforming welfare while serving Governors Weld and Cellucci will go a long way toward winning over not just Republicans but voters from across the spectrum that want Massachusetts to be great," said Baker spokesman Tim Buckley in a statement responding to the news. - A . Metzger/SHNS


Sen. Barry Finegold of Andover, in a close three-person race for treasurer in the Democratic primary, plans to discuss the support of South Shore and Brockton Democrats, including House Majority Leader Ron Mariano, according to his campaign. A state senator facing Rep. Tom Conroy and philanthropist Deb Goldberg in the Sept. 9 primary, Finegold has the backing of Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch, Quincy Sen. John Keenan, Milton Sen. Brian Joyce, Brockton Sen. Thomas Kennedy, Brockton Rep. Michael Brady, Stoughton Rep. Louis Kafka and Milton Rep. Walter Timilty. Finegold had a fundraising advantage over several months until Goldberg drew on her own reserves to fund an ad campaign. Last week Finegold announced a number of endorsements from Bristol County, including County Treasurer Chris Saunders, District Attorney Sam Sutter, Westport Sen. Michael Rodrigues, New Bedford Sen. Mark Montigny, New Bedford Rep. Robert Koczera, and Somerset Rep. Patricia Haddad, the speaker pro tem, as well as Fall River City Councilor Linda Pereira. Finegold plans to attend events in Randolph, Brockton and Hyde Park on Tuesday. - A. Metzger/SHNS