Health services organization joins over 70 Massachusetts employers to found Coalition
February 18, 2021 (Watertown/Wellesley, Mass.) The combined organization of Tufts Health Plan and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care has announced it has joined over 70 Massachusetts employers as a founding member of the Massachusetts Business Coalition for Early Childhood Education.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the already fragile early child care and education system. The coalition is a direct response to the need for working families to be provided with a more robust and sustainable network of early child care and education to support their personal and professional success.
“We are proud to be one of the founding members of the Massachusetts Business Coalition for Early Childhood Education,” said Tom Croswell, CEO of the combined organization of Tufts Health Plan and Harvard Pilgrim. “Without greater support, high-quality child care and early childhood education runs the risk of becoming even more limited, further burdening more families, especially women and people of color, with additional roadblocks to advancing their careers and reaching their goals.”
Limited access to high quality child care has placed increased pressure on families, especially women and people of color, to provide care while also pursuing their careers. Additionally, young children that experience gaps in their access to early child care and education are at risk of learning and developmental delays, with the most vulnerable children, as well as children of color, impacted at a disproportionately high rate. To address these needs, the coalition will focus on:
- Advocating for policies and programs that make early child care and education more readily available to Massachusetts workers;
- Identifying opportunities to improve program access, affordability, and quality;
- Collaborating around employer best practices for supporting early childhood needs; and,
- Focusing on advancing equitable child care solutions.
Why early childhood education is important:
- 91% of Massachusetts employers surveyed in the Fall of 2020 by a group of Massachusetts business associations reported significant concern about child care and school issues adversely impacting employee engagement, attendance, and productivity.
- 76% of employers also are deeply concerned about the disproportionate impact of these issues on women in the workplace.
- A recent statewide survey by Beacon Research of nearly 600 families found that 79% of parents are concerned they will not be able to work without formal care arrangements and 76% indicate their quality of work will suffer due to child care challenges.
- Massachusetts families already shoulder the burden of the most expensive child care, on average, in the nation: the annual cost of center-based child care for a family with both an infant and a four-year-old is $34,381 in Massachusetts, making the Commonwealth the least affordable state for families of infants or toddlers in center-based care.
- An increasing percentage of families with young children (71%) have all parents in the workforce, yet the lack of available, affordable, and stable early childhood care limits professional opportunity and personal income.
Benefits for Children
- High-quality early childhood education leads to phenomenal academic and lifetime gains, such as vastly improved high school graduation rates (four times more likely to graduate) and college attendance rates (twice as likely to attend).
- Since 80% of brain development occurs during a child’s first three years, and 90% by age five, missed opportunities during the earliest years of a child’s life have a significant impact.
Benefits for Society
- This is a public good with a massive return on investment.
- Nobel Laureate Economist James Heckman has established that high-quality early childhood education provides a 13% annual return on investment due to the significant economic benefits to participants and to the public, including:
- Decreased costs in K-12 education (e.g. special education and remediation programs);
- Increased earnings; and,
- Decreased antisocial behaviors, leading to savings to the public (e.g. health care and public safety).
- Many of our colleagues, balancing work and family responsibilities, see and understand this benefit all too well.
Racial and Gender Equity
- Women of color historically represent a disproportionate share of women in the labor market and are consequently, on average, more challenged by the growing instability of the child care sector.
- Most of the 6,700 early childhood programs struggling to operate in Massachusetts today are small businesses, and the vast majority are women-owned and women-led.
Fragile Early Childhood Education System
- Since COVID-19, nearly 20% of programs in Massachusetts have not reopened and those that are operating are struggling with sustainability due to significant drops in enrollment and attendance.
- This follows a 25% drop in programs during the decade before the pandemic, according to the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care.
- Lack of access to early childhood care creates stress, concern and challenges for many of our working parents
For more information, visit the Coalition’s website.
About the new combined organization
The combination of Tufts Health Plan and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care represents the coming together of two of New England’s most iconic nonprofit health care companies. Representing nearly 90 years of service to our members and the community, together we are building upon our diverse legacies and innovative collaboration by making it our purpose to guide and empower healthier lives for our members – no matter their age, health, race, identity, or income.
We strive to be a different kind of nonprofit health and wellbeing company, with a broad range of health plans, and innovative tools that make navigating health and wellbeing easier, guiding our members at every step of their health care journey to better health outcomes. We are committed to providing high-quality and affordable health care, improving the health and wellness of our members, and creating healthier communities throughout New England.