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State health data agency is cutting 65 jobs

The public agency responsible for analyzing data about the Massachusetts health care market is eliminating dozens of jobs to contend with $45 million in planned budget cuts.

The Center for Health Information and Analysis, or CHIA, will reduce spending over five years, part of a political compromise struck earlier this year to avoid a ballot question about hospital payments. The deal allowed the state to take money from CHIA to help fund community hospitals.

Backers of the initiative had proposed raising payments for those hospitals by taking money from Partners HealthCare, the state’s largest and most expensive health network.

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CHIA serves as a clearinghouse for data and tracks how well the state is controlling health spending. The agency’s payroll reached a high of 197 in 2015. Agency officials said that will shrink to 132 by next July — a loss of 65 jobs over two years. They said the reductions will be made by not filling vacant jobs and discontinuing contracts. The eliminated positions include data analysts and technology professionals, many of whom were hired on contract.

The smaller head count is part of a budget plan CHIA developed with consultants from the firm Accenture. With a smaller staff, the agency will produce less-frequent reports, but it will continue its core work of analyzing hospital and insurance market data, a spokesman said.

It also will move ahead with a long-delayed plan to build a health care cost transparency website for consumers. It will ask for bids this month and expects to hire a vendor in January to build the website.

“We feel confident about the plan that we have put forward,” agency spokesman Andrew Jackmauh said.

Some health experts and lawmakers have questioned the budget cuts, arguing that a smaller CHIA might hurt the state’s efforts to understand and control rising health care costs.

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House Majority Leader Ronald Mariano, at a meeting about health costs earlier this week, said he found CHIA’s budget cuts “extremely troubling.”

Governor Charlie Baker’s health secretary, Marylou Sudders, said the administration is committed to making sure CHIA has the resources it needs but said the agency must act in the “most efficient and cost-effective manner.”

The agency’s staff cuts were reported earlier by the State House News Service.


Priyanka Dayal McCluskey can be reached at priyanka.mccluskey@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @priyanka_dayal.