Yesterday the Joint Committee on Public Health, chaired by Senator Susan Fargo and Representative Jeffrey Sanchez recommended favorably 27 bills, and moved along two additional bills to the Committee on Health Care Financing. Among the bills were some important HCFA priorities that will make a difference in improved health for people in Massachusetts. We thank Chairs Fargo and Sanchez for approving these measures, and hope they will quickly move through the legislative process.
Unbiased Prescription Drug Information: The Committee approved H. 3367, sponsored by Rep. Jason Lewis, to strengthen the Massachusetts “academic detailing” program. The program sends trained medical educators to physicians who provide evidence-based educational materials on the best use of prescription drugs. The program counters the often biased promotional sales pitches offered by the pharmaceutical representatives, and instead allows prescribers to rely on science when deciding on drug therapies. The proposal also calls on DPH to identify a funding source for the program. The program will help reduce health care costs by promoting improved provider education, and appropriate, effective drug use.
Improve Children’s Medical Security Plan: The Committee discharged H. 1501, introduced by Rep. Liz Malia, to the Health Care Financing Committee. The bill updates our antiquated statute governing the Children’s Medical Security Plan, which provides basic coverage to uninsured children. The current law caps benefits such as prescription drugs, dental care and mental health services. The bill will expand coverage by eliminating these hard limits, and allow the administration to set benefits based on the needs of children in the program.
Community Outreach and Enrollment: Also approved was H. 598, introduced by Rep. Stephen Kulik (including a companion bill sponsored by Sen. Sal DiDomenico), which will establish a permanent Outreach and Education unit within EOHHS. The office would distribute grants statewide to community and nonprofit groups for outreach, enrollment assistance and retention of coverage assistance, and education on effective and appropriate use of health care coverage. The bill would institutionalize the outreach grant program, which was critical in building enrollment and helping people maintain their coverage. Funding for the program was eliminated this year, ending an effective program.
-Gisela Bryan and Brian Rosman