Massachusetts Medical Society: Legislative Session Wrap-Up

Legislative Session Wrap-Up

Great News! The final hours of this legislative session took a favorable turn for physicians of Massachusetts, as the House and Senate failed to reach a compromise on the health care bill that they have been working on for the past several months. The two branches took fundamentally different approaches in their 100-plus-page bills, and were not able to reconcile them in time for the end of the session.

This means that several controversial provisions opposed by the MMS did not move forward, including:

  • An unfavorable Out of Network billing proposal
  • Prohibitively high tax on ambulatory surgery centers and other outpatient providers of surgical and diagnostic care
  • Concerning expansions to the scope of practice of nurse practitioners, CRNAs, optometrists, and podiatrists
  • The creation – and taxation - of a new category of office-based surgery centers
  • Significant increase in physician licensure fees and administrative burdens for physicians offices

We thank our members for their swift and impactful response to our Legislative Alerts. Your actions helped fuel our success! House and Senate leadership have expressed their intention to take up these bills again in January, and we will continue our staunch advocacy on behalf of patients and physicians as we work with both branches on this legislation in the future.

Governor Baker’s Opioid bill, the CARE Act, was passed by the House and Senate and is on his desk to be signed. The MMS strongly supports the bill, which includes several provisions that we have long advocated for. The bill will strengthen the statewide standing order for naloxone. It also includes two proposals originally proposed by the MMS: the partial fill of prescription opioids, and the establishment of and funding for an innovative peer-to-peer physician education program for the care of patients with substance use disorder and patients with pain. We also support provisions requiring that all three forms of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) will be offered in jails and prisons, through a pilot program. We would have preferred to see full statewide availability of MAT in jails and prisons, but are very pleased with this development. In the same vein, the compromise bill includes a study of the feasibility of Supervised Injection Facilities in the Commonwealth. The MMS has of course already conducted such a study, which culminated in our SIF report, and we would have preferred stronger language allowing DPH to promulgate regulations establishing a pilot SIF, but we see this study as a promising development, particularly as Massachusetts is the first state to establish such legislation. We are also pleased to see that the bill includes the provision of MAT in emergency departments, as well as provisions requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant prior to accessing the prescription monitoring program.

In the past week, the House and Senate have also passed several other bills that the MMS has long supported. Those that have been signed by the Governor thus far include a law raising the legal age for tobacco consumption to age 21, and a law repealing antiquated provisions that criminalized abortion, which were superseded by Roe v. Wade.

The Governor has ten days to sign the bills that the legislature passed on Tuesday night. Following the July 31st deadline, the legislature will hold only informal sessions until the start of the next legislative session in January.

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