A Healthy Blog

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

Prescription Drug Reform

Drug Coupons: A Double-Edged Sword in Need of Further Review

At first glance, discounts on prescription drug copays via “coupons” seem like an enticing offer. Many patients struggle to afford their copays. Until 2012, Massachusetts banned drug coupons for fear that they would ultimately result in higher costs for the whole healthcare system. When the ban was lifted, the plan was to allow drug coupons temporarily, until 2015, and to conduct a study on the cost ramifications.  What happened next is typical: the study never happened, and the sunset date was extended to 2017. And now, a rider was added in the House version of the 2017 state budget that... Read more »

HCFA Statement on Senate Budget proposal

The Massachusetts State Senate released its proposed state budget on May 17. The budget's theme is "Investing for a resilient Commonwealth," and there are a number of bold, creative initiatives, particularly around children's programs,  In response, HCFA released the statement below. The budget debate begins in the Senate on Tuesday, May 24. HCFA will be working with Senators on a number of amendments to strengthen health care for Massachusetts.   Read more »

House Budget An Opportunity To Improve Health in Massachusetts

Last week, the state House of Representatives unveiled their draft proposed budget for fiscal year 2017 (which begins this July 1). Like the Governor's proposal, the House budget proposes spending just under $40 billion, with about $15.4 billion going to MassHealth, a increase of below 5% (note that in figuring the cost to the state for MassHealth, one needs to subtract from the $15.4 million appropriation the some $7 billion in federal Medicaid revenue that we receive as a result of our MassHealth program). The budget proposes no major cuts in eligibility or benefits for MassHealth, though... Read more »

Sobering Report Points To Challenges in Access and Affordability

This. The headline above topped the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation's annoucement of the latest results from the Massachusetts Health Reform Survey. The sobering report has some good news - overall, coverage is still very strong in Massachusetts, with 95.7 percent of nonelderly adults reporting having insurance. But the report is newsworthy for the challenges it lays bare. Just having an insurance card is not nearly enough. Read more »

Legislature Overrides Governor's Veto of Academic Detailing Funds

Remember "academic detailing?" We wrote about it last week - does that help? How about this: We called on you to contact your legislator, asking him or her to support a vote to overturn the Governor's veto, and restore funding for the program. Read more »

HCFA ED Amy Whitcomb Slemmer in Globe: It’s about time we lifted veil on drug costs.

We need to do more to control prescription drug prices, says HCFA Executive Director Amy Whitcomb Slemmer in a letter published in today's Boston Globe: Read more »

State House Program Thursday: Academic Detailing - Helping Combat The Opioid Epidemic

Please join Representative Jennifer Benson and the Alosa Foundation this Thursday, April 16th from 11:30 to 12:30 in Statehouse Room 437 for a legislative briefing on Academic Detailing: Helping Combat the Opioid Epidemic. Health care providers today are constantly bombarded with an overwhelming amount of new clinical research on different prescription drugs and treatments, making it difficult to stay current about which are most effective. At the same time, the pharmaceutical industry spends billions on marketing directly to doctors to promote their products. This disproportionate influence... Read more »

Watch The Video That Pharma Does Not Want You To See

Sunday's Last Week Tonight With John Oliver included a brilliant take-down of appalling drug marketing tactics aimed at influencing physician prescribing, a long-time concern of HCFA and the Massachusetts Prescription Reform Coalition we lead. Some of the language may not be quite safe for work, but we can't resist this: "Drug companies are a bit like high school boyfriends. They're much more concerned with getting inside of you than being effective once they're in there." The piece included an interview with Jerry Avorn, who has worked closely with us on these issues over the years. As you... Read more »


With the new legislative session comes a host of new legislative ideas. HCFA worked with a diverse group of legislators in both the House and Senate to file a broad package of legislation. You can see a 2-page brief summary of each of our priority bills here. The proposed legislation include the following proposals: Read more »

Pharma Expands Wining and Dining of Docs, and YOU Pay For It

The Department of Public Health recently released the 2012 figures on drug industry marketing spending on gifts and meals for Massachusetts doctors. Remember, halfway through 2012 the state legislature weakened the state's rules, which had banned out-of-office meals provided by pharma sales representatives as part of their drug marketing and promotional campaigns. The new provision was supposed to allow only "modest meals," but the DPH regulations did not put any practical limit on the wining and dining, allowing even alcohol to be provided to medical professionals as part of so-called "... Read more »


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