A Healthy Blog

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

Will There Be A "The Final Countdown" For Health Care This Year?

Will There Be A "The Final Countdown" For Health Care This Year?

July 27, 2014

The Massachusetts formal legislative session ends every even-numbered year on July 31. So this Thursday is the last chance to pass major legislation before the session ends for the year (of course, there's still opportunities to pass non-controversial matters by unanimous consent in the informal sessions that will continue all year).

For the past 3 sessions, a major health care law was enacted on the very last day of the session. In 2008, it was Chapter 305 (our summary), a cost control law that included restrictions on pharma company marketing, electronic health records, and primary care workforce provisions. It also created a stakeholder commission on payment reform. In 2010, it was Chapter 288, which made numerous reforms to health insurance, including a state Minimum Loss Ratio, open enrollment periods and much more. And in 2012, it was chapter 224, the comprehensive cost control and delivery reform law now being implemented by the Health Policy Commission and others. 

Each of these just made it by the midnight gavel, although, in all honesty, the 2008 law passed a number of minutes past midnight, as the Senate stopped the clock to continue working for another half hour or so (see our tick-tock). Will we get a last-minute health law this Thursday?

Nothing super major is in this wings, so this year might break the pattern. And we do have a good track record for predicting these things.

However, there is an important health care bill that ought to be teed up for passage by Thursday. Both the House and the Senate have passed somewhat different versions of a bill to create an Office of Health Equity with EOOHS. We've been long-time champions of the idea, and drafted the original bill many years ago. The Senate version dropped an important provision that called on the state to conduct an annual "Disparities Impact" review as part of the state budget, looking at the impact on disparities of major inititives of the state. We hope the House and Senate can quickly come to an agreement on the bill. Passage on July 31 would be a nice way to uphold the tradition.

  -Brian Rosman