By Brendan Abel
MMS Legislative Counsel
With 2017 comes a two-year state legislative session now underway on Beacon Hill.
What can members expect from these new sessions? Here is an overview of the bills that the MMS is promoting for passage in the New Year.
A Busy Season
The MMS is advocating for 21 bills comprising nine new filings and 12 bills that will be refiled from previous sessions. Many of the bills are the result of resolutions passed at the House of Delegates over the past years.
With legislative sponsors secured to file all 21 bills by the mid-January deadline, the MMS advocacy team will now wait for the bills to be assigned to specific legislative committees.
In the past, many MMS bills were assigned to the Joint Committee on Public Health and the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. Others were assigned to the Joint Committee on Judiciary and the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse, among others.
MMS Adopts New Policies at IM16
At MMS Interim Meeting (IM16) in December, the House of Delegates adopted several new policies. Among them is a policy outlining the next steps MMS will take regarding the legalization of recreational marijuana, which was passed by voters in November. Despite its passage, the MMS has vowed to continue its advocacy for public health. The MMS will work to:
- Prevent youth access to marijuana, including restrictions on marketing and advertising to those under 21 years;
- Direct the state to conduct and publish research on the clinical and public health effects of recreational marijuana;
- Prevent impaired driving due to recreational use of marijuana;
- Promote education about the health effects of recreational marijuana;
- Set safety and quality standards for both recreational and medical marijuana; and
- Direct adequate funding for health and public health interventions related to marijuana.
The MMS is working with the legislature to include provisions in the regulations governing the implementation of the law to reflect these concerns.
For all IM16 policies, click here.
Once bills are assigned to appropriate committees, the busy hearing season begins. With over 5,000 bills expected to be filed this session, MMS leadership and staff will set their sights on strategizing about advocacy approaches to our bills, as well as those filed by others that will affect the MMS and its members. We expect to be testifying at hearings, drafting detailed written comments, and meeting with key legislators — all components of effective advocacy.
MMS Bills: Opioids, Partial Fill Rxs
The MMS legislative agenda reflects the diverse priorities of our members.
Three new bills are related to opioid prescribing. An Act Relative to the Prescription Monitoring Program will seek to fix a loophole in the current Bay State laws that omit methadone as a treatment for opioid use disorder from being included in the list of a patient’s controlled substance history. Many members have raised this as a public health concern that could lead to potentially dangerous drug interactions.
Another bill this year would allow for true “partial fills.” This means that it will allow for a patient to elect to receive a portion of their Schedule II opioid medication, and then return to the pharmacy to receive the remainder of the prescription if necessary. At present, the remainder of a partially filled prescription is no longer valid, requiring patients to return to the physician for an additional prescription. Passage of this bill will make state law compatible with Federal law, passed as part of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. The “partial-fill” concept originated within the MMS and represents one of the signature advocacy efforts on the Federal level in 2016.
A third bill, An Act Relative to Ensuring Transparency in Health Plan Formularies, would require health plans to post their drug formularies online for patients and providers.
Public Health, Health Care Delivery Bills
Several bills related to public health are part of this year’s state legislative agenda.
One bill seeks to ban smoking or the use of electronic cigarettes at outdoor pedestrian-only public areas, such as Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
Another bill aims to protect children from poisoning by prohibiting laundry detergent packets that are not in child resistant packaging because of their appealing “candy-like” appearance.
The MMS is also filing bills related to health care delivery and payment. One bill will seek to prohibit the use of maintenance of board certification as a condition of obtaining a medical license. The bill would also extend to hospital or health plan credentialing determinations. Another bill is intended to raise Medicaid rates to be greater than or equal to Medicare rates.
The MMS is preparing a legislative proposal related to out-of-network billing, or “surprise billing.” This topic has been the subject of many high-profile conversations at meetings over the past several months, prompting the Medical Society to offer a solution most beneficial to physicians and patients.
Refiling MMS Bills
The MMS is refiling a dozen bills. Bills in this category may have gained momentum but ultimately did not pass before the end of the last state legislative session in December. One of them, An Act Improving Students’ Access to Life Saving Treatment, would allow students to self-administer glucose testing strips, insulin, and glucagon. This bill is important for circumstances that arise when students are outside the presence of a school nurse, for example, while attending a field trip. This bill passed the House last session. The MMS hopes to partner with diabetes advocacy groups to see the bill to final passage.
The MMS will also refile An Act Relative to Medical Decision Making. This bill aims to improve the medical decision-making process for incapacitated patients without health care proxies by allowing physicians in certain circumstances to name family members of the patient as surrogate decision-makers. In the last session, this bill was voted favorably out of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. The MMS hopes that the bill will be passed this year.
A full list of bill filings is available at www.massmed.org/advocacy.