Health Bills Move/Die in Legislature
The Health Care Financing Committee polled members on 44 bills Tuesday afternoon, cleaning out most of their inventory of bills for this session. Click here to see a list of the poll results.
We were disappointed that the Committee recommended to study a number of important bills. Sending a bill to study in effect kills the bill for the session. A number of these bills would have no cost to the Commonwealth and could be advanced despite the fiscal crunch. Among the bills sent to study were:
- Senator Montigny and Rep. Kulik's bills (S. 17/H. 109) to restrict drug company use of prescribing data for marketing.
- Senator Richard Moore's bill (S. 563) to require full tobacco cessation benefits in Commonwealth Care plans.
- Senator Richard Moore's bill (S. 873) to make a number of changes to strengthen health reform.
The Committee approved just over a dozen bills, including a modest rewrite of the health care provisions of the Governor's small business bill, H. 4490. (here's our summary of the bill, and here's our report on the hearing). The Committee redraft only makes minor changes to the Governor's proposal. It includes provisions requiring DHCFP approval of provider contracts, requires annual open enrollment periods for individuals seeking coverage, requires insurers to offer limited network plans, and expresses a determination not to expand mandated benefits. The Committee only has jurisdiction over the health care sections; other committees have reported on their sections and these will presumably be packaged by the Ways and Means Committee.
The Committee also approved a measure (H. 1104) to force all MassHealth members into managed care organizations. Currently, most MassHealth members have a choice between two managed care options- the primary care clinician plan, or one of 4 (soon to be 5) managed care organizations. We've long supported choice among members, and oppose this idea. Proponents tout this as a cost-saving measure, but MassHealth officials, who have closely studied this issue, say that it would increase costs. The Senate has defeated this idea several times this year.
The Committee is still looking at a comprehensive public health bill that includes a number of HCFA-supported provisions. With time running out on the formal sessions, we're hoping the Committee can act favorably on this measure.