A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Breaking down barriers to care

Advocates of Barrier Free Care bill assemble at State House for picture

Breaking down barriers to care

April 14, 2014

One of the things we hear over and over is that people cannot afford their co-pays and deductibles. Momentum is building on legislation (H. 3976) to eliminate co-pays for some very high value treatments.

Health Care For All activists and staff came together to lobby their state legislators on behalf of the “Barrier Free Care” Bill.  Fifteen activists plus HCFA staff members shared their stories and asked their legislators to work with committee members and leadership to make sure the bill gets passed.   

Angela Huntsberry of Dorchester has to ration test strips and re-use needles to stay on top of her diabetes.  This raises the likelihood that Angela, who has already lost two family members to diabetes-related complications, will suffer a catastrophic event that will create even more cost. Angela should be able to access the care she needs without having to choose between her medication and food. Angela related how when she lost her job, she went on MassHealth and had no copays for her diabetes medication and could afford to take the proper dosage on time. When she finally got a new job, she went onto her employer’s plan, but even with coverage, now had copays and wound up limiting her care.  Angela and others like her visited the offices of over 30 State Representatives and Senators to tell their stories and say why they support Barrier Free Care legislation.

The legislation would establish a commission to assess which chronic illness medications and procedures would qualify as “high value”-incredibly valuable to the patient with relatively low cost to the insurer-and, as a result, would be co-pay free.  The concept behind the legislation is known as Value Based Insurance Design and is founded on the premise that we get better health outcomes and reduce the cost of acute care by making sure that individuals with chronic illness can actually access what they need.

Then, on April 8th, Health Care For All participated in a legislative briefing at the State House hosted by the Prevention Caucus to answer specific questions. Senator Jehlen explains the benefits of Barrier Free CareSenator Pat Jehlen of Somerville, the bill’s Senate sponsor, outlined its components and effectively summarized the positive effects the bill would have.  Dr. Richard Lopez, the chief medical officer of Atrius Health, was on hand to further frame the problem of co-pays as a barrier to care while a representative from the Massachusetts Pharmacists Association also detailed the rationale behind the MPA’s support for the bill. Caucus co-chairs Senator Harriette Chandler and Representative (and Senator-elect) Jason Lewis spoke strongly in favor of the bill. Sen. Jehlen expressed her optimism about the bill’s future and encourage her fellow members to work for the bill’s passage this year.  

This bill has legs -- we are working hard to make sure that co-pays and deductibles are no longer barriers to necessary care that saves lives.

-Andy Gordon and Ari Fertig