Massachusetts Medical Society: Massachusetts Medical Society supports health care affordability efforts

Massachusetts Medical Society supports health care affordability efforts

BOSTON – Health Care For All is releasing today two briefs on survey results conducted by the Altarum Healthcare Value Hub that outline how unaffordable care is driving health inequities in Massachusetts during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

While consumer concerns over health care costs have been documented, these surveys offer a more in-depth look at how these concerns impact residents in Massachusetts – despite high rates of insurance coverage. “Massachusetts families have been drowning in health care costs for far too long, and COVID-19 has pulled back the curtain and revealed the challenges that have long existed in our health care system” said Amy Rosenthal, Executive Director of Health Care for All.

“The survey shows how widespread the affordability crisis is in Massachusetts and the disproportionate impact it has on People of Color and low-income residents. These results should spur legislators into action to deliver families the relief they so urgently need. We must pass the More Affordable Care Act and prescription drug cost reform this session.” The survey results paint a troubling picture for the state of health care affordability in Massachusetts.

Some key findings include:

  • 51% experienced healthcare affordability burdens, such as forgoing care.
  • 74% are worried about affording health care in the future.
  • 51% are worried about affording treatment for COVID-19 if they need it
  • 47% are worried about affording the cost of prescription drugs.

“I had to retire when I got sick, and now have to purchase insurance on my own, with premiums that are hundreds of dollars a month, and about to jump even higher,” said Floyd Elam, a Dorchester resident who called Health Care For All’s Help Line. “On top of that, I have high-blood pressure and the co-pays for my prescription are going from $25 a month to $50. At that rate, I don’t even know if I can afford to keep taking the medication.”

The survey also highlighted the racial, ethnic, economic and geographic inequities of health care affordability in the state. Concerns about health care affordability and prescription drug costs were highest among Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino residents, people with household incomes of less than $100,000 per year and people living in the Boston region.

Specific findings include:

  • 75% of Black/African American adults and 68% of Hispanic/Latino adults reported facing affordability burdens, compared with 46% of white adults.
  • 61% of families making less than $50,000 per year experience affordability burdens, which is higher than any other income group.
  • 36% of Black/African American respondents and 33% of Hispanic/Latino respondents reported not filling a prescription, cutting pills in half or skipping a dose of medicine, compared to 19% of white respondents.

“Since the average income of families of color is significantly lower than that of White families, higher prescription drug prices contribute to the health care disparities between the two communities,” said Juan Cofield, president of the NAACP, New England Area Conference. “Lowering prescription drug prices will reduce these health care disparities between the two communities. Accordingly, the NAACP, New England Area Conference is proud to support H.729 and S.771.”

“For the physician community, the high and continually rising cost of prescription drugs undermines our ability to provide the best clinical care possible and directly impacts the health of our patients,” said Dr. Ronald Dunlap, past President of the Massachusetts Medical Society. “The disproportionate impact drug affordability and health care affordability in general has on communities of color and the related exacerbation of disparate health outcomes is unconscionable. Our patients deserve the opportunity to obtain the highest attainable standard of health, with affordable high quality care, including prescription drugs, which are critical for optimal health. For our patients, we urge the legislature to pass H.729/S.771 and H.1247/S.782.”

The survey also found that Massachusetts residents have a strong desire for government action on health care costs across party lines. Bills currently before the state legislature that could address the concerns raised in the survey include An Act to ensure more affordable care or the MAC Act (H.1247/S.782), An Act to ensure prescription drug cost transparency and affordability (H.729) and An Act relative to pharmaceutical access, costs and transparency (S.771).

“These survey briefs show that far too many Massachusetts residents are burdened by unaffordable health care,” said Senator John Keenan, lead sponsor of the MAC Act (S.782). “The MAC Act will address these concerns by reforming the rate review process to enhance transparency and protect consumers from excessive health insurance premium hikes. It will also implement a reinsurance program to lower premiums for individuals and small businesses. We can’t wait any longer to deliver Massachusetts residents the relief they need.”

“No one should ever have to make the decision between paying for health care or putting food on their table, and the survey released today clearly shows it is disproportionately Black and Latinx residents that face impossible choices because of unaffordable care” said Representative Christine Barber, lead sponsor of the MAC Act (H.1247) and An Act to ensure prescription drug cost transparency and affordability (H.729). “The MAC Act will help address longstanding racial disparities in health care access by eliminating co-pays for certain treatments for chronic conditions that are more likely to impact low-income communities and communities of color. It will also establish a consumer benchmark to rein in the rising costs of premiums, deductibles and copays.”

“We need to act now to improve access to affordable medications for all,” said Senator Cindy Friedman, lead sponsor of An Act relative to pharmaceutical access, costs and transparency (S.771), and Senate Chair of the Health Care Financing Committee. “This legislation will implement cost assistance programs to improve affordability for some medications used to treat chronic conditions that disproportionately impact people of color and are also COVID-19 risk factors and empower the Health Policy Commission to hold manufacturers accountable for unreasonable or excessive prices. By reining in prescription drug costs and increasing transparency and oversight within the pharmaceutical industry, we can drive down costs within our healthcare system and improve patients' ability to access the care they need.”

“The rise in prescription drug prices has disproportionately harmed our most vulnerable communities, including my constituents and the patients I care for in the emergency room,” said Representative Jon Santiago, lead sponsor of An Act to ensure prescription drug cost transparency and affordability (H.729). “Passing this bill not only improves access to lifesaving medications, but is a necessary tool to combat disparities in health care.”

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