I write to you today with public health and legislative updates.
Table of Contents
- Public Health Updates
- Cambridge Updates
- Legislative Updates
- Mental Health Services and Resources
Public Health Updates
Massachusetts Health Connector Ensures Continued Access to Preventive Care
After a federal Texas court’s decision to limit the scope of preventive services covered under the Affordable Care Act, the Massachusetts Health Connector board voted on May 11 to protect access to vital, comprehensive health coverage. This vote amends state Minimum Creditable Coverage standards, ensuring that MA residents will continue to receive high-value preventive services through health insurance plans at no cost. Key services include cancer screenings, HIV prevention, and cholesterol-lowering medication without cost-sharing. Learn more at bit.ly/3ooX6Kl.
End of COVID-19 Public Health Emergency
As a reminder, the COVID-19 public health emergency ended last week. That means:
- Healthcare facilities can set their own mask policies
- Private insurers aren’t required to provide free rapid tests
- Vaccines & treatments are still covered by insurance in MA
Learn more at mass.gov/COVID
Massachusetts Funds Extra SNAP Payments
Due to federal action, extra COVID SNAP benefits ended on 3/2/2023. However, Massachusetts households will receive state-funded extra SNAP payments on April 7, May 2, and June 2, 2023, following Governor Healey’s signing of the Legislature’s supplemental budget that created an off-ramp from the extra federal COVID SNAP benefits. Visit Mass.gov/ExtraCOVIDSNAP to learn more.
MassHealth Redetermination Underway
The MassHealth eligibility redetermination process began on April 1. Over the next 12 months, MassHealth will renew the membership of all 2.3 million members. Visit mass.gov/masshealthrenew or call (800)-841-2900 to learn more about this process.
One Remaining COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic
- The Cambridge Public Health Department is hosting one additional Wednesday vaccine clinic this season, on June 7. For more information and to register, visit https://www.cambridgepublichealth.org/services/get-vaccinated/
Public Health Helpline Supports Residents with COVID-19
To speak with someone, call the confidential COVID-19 Hotline for the public health departments of Cambridge, Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop at 617-933-0797. The hotline is managed by the Cambridge Public Health Department. Learn more at bit.ly/3J7FYAO
City Offering Free At-Home COVID Tests
The Cambridge Public Health Department, in partnership with the Cambridge Health Alliance, is providing free COVID-19 rapid antigen at-home test kits. They can be picked up Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM in the CHA lobby at 119 Windsor Street. Cambridge businesses or organizations that would like free rapid tests to provide to customers can call the COVID-19 hotline at 617-933-0797 to request them.
Hearings on Legislation That I Filed
Four bills that I filed this session had public hearings this week and are summarized below. A public hearing is the first step in the lengthy process of moving a bill through the Legislature.
- H984, An Act relative to access to care for serious mental illness
- Prohibits health insurance plans regulated by the Commonwealth from requiring prior authorization or step therapy for drugs prescribed to treat a serious mental illness. This legislation would reduce access barriers to medication for people living with serious mental illness in Massachusetts, which in turn would reduce their risk of adverse events that may lead to hospitalization or incarceration.
- H988, An Act relative to patient financial protection
- Requires that health insurance that provides coverage for prescription drugs must establish a separate out-of-pocket limit for prescription drugs, including specialty drugs. This bill requires that the out-of-pocket limit may not exceed the dollar amount set as the minimum annual deductible for a high-deductible health plan.
- H1184, An Act relative to health equity and community health workers
- Requires insurers and MassHealth to reimburse for covered services provided by community health workers. Community health workers are certified health professionals who deliver care to and engage with patients both inside and outside of healthcare facilities.
- H676, An Act requiring major policy makers to disclose donations to entities engaging in political activity
- Requires that any major policymaker, elected or appointed, regardless of whether or not they are compensated, disclose any donations above $1,000 to organizations that are involved in certain political activities. This bill would bring more attention to "dark money," political contributions to organizations that are not required to disclose the identity of their funders, allowing individuals to donate anonymously, often large sums of money, to organizations attempting to influence policy.
Mental Health Services and Resources
If you or a loved one are struggling, please know that you are not alone. There are some great resources here: decker4rep.com/2021/mental-health-services-and-resources/.
Intimate Partner Abuse Prevention Helpline
This initiative is designed to prevent intimate partner violence by fostering accountability and change in people who harm or may harm their intimate partner. You can find more information at 10to10helpline.org or by calling 877-898-3411.
As always, do not hesitate to reach out to me with questions or concerns at Marjorie.Decker@mahouse.gov.