L’Italien, Senate Pass Sweeping Healthcare Reform and Cost Containment Bill
Includes provisions for low-income, elderly, and disabled citizens; takes step toward single-payer
Friday, November 10, 2017
By Team Barbara
BOSTON – After two long days of debate the Massachusetts Senate passed S.2202, a large health care reform package designed to support community hospitals and drive down costs late on Thursday night.
An Act furthering health empowerment and affordability by leveraging transformative health care, known as the HEALTH Act, passed by a vote of 33-6 after Senators debated 162 amendments, 51 of which were included in the final version of the bill.
Among the amendments included in the HEALTH Act were several sponsored by State Senator Barbara L’Itallien (D-Andover) that help senior citizens, people with disabilities, and low-income citizens of Massachusetts access health care more easily and affordably.
“Despite uncertainty and recklessness at the federal level, Massachusetts continues to show that it will d what it takes to take care of its residents,” said State Senator Barbara L’Italien. “Passing this bill was a big step. It includes important language I sponsored to make assisted living available to vulnerable senior citizens who need it, ensure people with disabilities don’t have to worry about losing health care coverage, and help the Commonwealth spend money more wisely while easing the high healthcare cost burdening thousands of seniors. Our government should be judged by how we treat our most vulnerable citizens. I’m proud to keep fighting for them.”
Amendment 66 to the bill concerns the Frail Elder Waiver, which allows Massachusetts to petition the Federal government to allow senior citizens on MassHealth or Medicaid to reside in assisted living.
Amendment 79 closes a loophole so that people with disabilities over age 26 can continue to receive coverage under their parents’ health insurance. When Massachusetts laws aligned with the ACA, this requirement was inadvertently eliminated in one section of the law. The amendment restores the intent of the law and allows people with disabilities who cannot support themselves to continue receiving much-needed health insurance.
Amendment 120 expands access to Medicare savings programs which help reduce costs for low-income seniors on Medicare, leveraging $7 of federal matching funds for every $1 the state spends. Low-income seniors currently pay far more for insurance than people under age 65, a discrepancy addressed by the amendment.
The HEALTH Act also includes an amendment to assess the potential financial impact and performance of a single-payer health care system compared to the state’s current health care spending. If single-payer proves to be less expensive, officials would have to develop a plan to put that model into place. Sponsored by Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro) and Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), the amendment passed with 35 votes.
“As a longtime supporter of moving to a single-payer health care system, I was thrilled to see this important first step pass today in the Senate by an overwhelming majority,” said State Senator Barbara L’Italien. “As our state continues to strive for a better and better health care system, it is my hope and optimistic belief that we will move to this type of universal coverage system in the near future – and perhaps be the first state to do so, paving the way federally. I’m grateful for the longtime advocacy of my colleague Jamie Eldridge, and to Julian Cyr for pushing this over the finish line yesterday.”
The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.