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Mayor Michelle Wu will be live on Radio Boston at 11 a.m. — so get your questions for her in while there’s still time.
Now, to the news:
A powerful prescription: Boston Medical Center just launched a unique new pilot program that prescribes its most vulnerable patients not a pill or medication — but a discount on their electric bill. WBUR’s Amy Sokolow reports BMC is the first hospital in the country to use solar panels on top of one of their buildings to generate energy credits to help pay their patients’ utility bills. Confused? Let’s explain:
- How does it work? BMC recently took advantage of a federal tax credit — created by the Inflation Reduction Act — to install solar panels on the roof of one of its administrative buildings. Those panels are being used to send electricity into the grid, which is in turn metered by Eversource and converted into clean energy credits. BMC is now allocating those credits to help pay for certain patients’ monthly utility bills. According to BMC, the monthly credits will average around $50 per household — or a total of $600 a year. (Households also have to be Eversource customers.)
- Who’s getting help? During the initial phase of the pilot program, BMC says the credits will go to 80 households in their Complex Care Management program, which focuses on patients who need more hospital care and are lower-income.
- Why is BMC getting into energy assistance? Dr. Anna Goldman, a BMC primary care doctor and co-founder of the new Clean Power Prescription program, said “utility insecurity” is one of the social determinants of health that the hospital screens for. Whether it’s having heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer, Goldman called reliable electricity “a basic human need.”
- What’s next: BMC has only just begun enrolling the first households, but Goldman said they plan to expand the program. The hospital is hoping to partner with outside organizations that can host their own solar arrays. Goldman says those organizations would also be eligible for big tax incentives if they donate at least half of the energy from their panels toward credits for BMC patients. “It’s kind of a win-win,” Goldman said.
Heads up: Massachusetts is one of 13 states that will offer the IRS’s new free tax filing pilot program next year. The program, Direct File, will let people file their federal tax returns online for free — bypassing the fees that private tax-prep companies often charge.
- Not everyone in Massachusetts will be eligible for the initial rollout this coming year. While they’re still working to finalize the details, the IRS says the program will be “limited to taxpayers with certain types of income, credits and deductions – taxpayers with relatively simple returns.”
- Tax prep companies like TurboTax aren’t happy about this potential new competitor on the scene. However, Sen. Elizabeth Warren — a longtime advocate of the idea — is pretty pumped.
On Beacon Hill: While the U.S. House of Representatives takes another shot at picking a new speaker today, the near-future of the gavel in Massachusetts has come under some speculation. House Speaker Ron Mariano told reporters yesterday that he plans to run for reelection next year. But the 76-year-old said it “remains to be seen” if he serves the full 2025-26 term. (That’s a fair question, since the last four House speakers here all left office during their terms.)
- In related news: The House is planning to vote today on its new gun control bill, amid protests from local police chiefs and gun owners. WBUR’s Walter Wuthmann has more on the debate and the details of the thrice-reworked legislation.
PSA: A Brookline resident is organizing an event this afternoon to send support to people affected by the war in Israel and Gaza. The gathering runs from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Brookline Public Library.
- Organizer Jen Wofford says people will be able to donate clothes, medical supplies or money — or even just decorate cards that will be mailed to hospitals and organizations in the region.
P.S.— Have you been listening to The Gun Machine? The fourth episode of our new podcast with The Trace just dropped. In it, host Alain Stephens goes to the birthplace of the industry — Springfield, Massachusetts — to look at the city’s evolving relationship with guns. With the ongoing debate on Beacon Hill, it’s as topical a listen as ever.