MMS State Advocacy Shifts from Testifying to Coalition-Building

By Sarah Ruth Bates, MBE, MMS Government Relations and Research Analyst

The Society’s Government Relations team is transitioning into a process of building coalitions with legislators and fellow stakeholders, following a year of testifying at hearings in the State House.

The shift in process comes as the State House moves into the latter stages of the current legislative session. This session began in January 2017, when legislators filed 6,000 bills. In 2018, legislative committees will make decisions regarding the merits of those bills, and will vote out each bill favorably, unfavorably, or into study. This legislative session ends in July. The MMS’s continuing advocacy addresses the many bills that affect physicians, patients, and medical practice in the Commonwealth. Major themes include the following:

Adult Guardianship

One of many bills that we hope to see reported favorably out of committee is Senate Bill 1177/House Bill 3027, An Act to Establish the Office of Adult Guardianship and Decisional Support Services. This bill seeks to standardize and regulate the guardianship process, providing invaluable assistance to incapacitated patients and their families.

Health Care Costs

Also in the State House, the Senate has recently released a comprehensive bill addressing health care costs, on which Dr. Henry Dorkin, the MMS president, has testified. The House will review that legislation in early 2018, and the MMS will continue to engage with legislators on its future iterations. We may see further state legislative action in response to changes on the federal level.

We anticipate the release of the Health Policy Commission’s (HPC) annual Cost Trends Report in February. This report analyzes data on health care spending in Massachusetts over the previous year, and sets the agenda for conversations about health policy and finance issues. Overall health care costs in the state have increased at a rate below the benchmark set by the HPC this past year, and we hope to see the same low rate of growth reflected in this year’s data.

Opioids

As we approach two years since the governor’s opioid bill, his administration has put forward a second, similar piece of legislation. We look forward to engaging with the Baker administration on this bill. We will likely also see increased enforcement of existing opioid legislation; more information.

Nurse Staffing Ratios and Family Medical Leave

The upcoming year will bring a biennial election, including ballot measures. It’s too early to know which proposed measures will appear, but we are following several, including nurse-to-patient staffing ratios, proposed by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, and a measure to support family medical leave.

Marijuana

We will continue to engage with the results of previous ballot measures as well, particularly the legalization of recreational marijuana. The Cannabis Control Commission will promulgate final regulations in 2018, and will also begin issuing licenses to vendors of recreational marijuana in July.

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