"Health Care For All is encouraged by the Massachusetts House of Representatives' passage of health care legislation today. An Act to Promote Resilience in Our Health Care System (H. 4888) takes some important steps to address issues and gaps in health care access for residents during the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath.
"Telehealth has proven to be a crucial tool for consumers to be connected to care during the confinement and economic reopening stages. The House bill takes strides to extend the state emergency order that allows the implementation of telehealth for the delivery of health care services, including for oral health and behavioral health, for at least the next twelve months. Health Care For All believes that as legislation moves forward, the definition of telehealth must be expansive and flexible to allow consumers to access the health care services they need through the remainder of the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.
"This piece of legislation also tackles surprise medical billing by temporarily prohibiting out-of-network billing practices for one year for emergency and inpatient services. While Health Care For All would like to ensure that longer-term protections are implemented, this is a step in the right direction to protect patients from unexpected medical bills.
"The legislature included an important amendment to help contain the spread of the pandemic by expanding coverage for COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic individuals who work in industries with increased risk of exposure such as restaurants and retail.
"However, we are disappointed that the legislature did not adopt a critical provision to ensure access to medications for certain chronic conditions and potential COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. The pandemic has made even clearer the importance of access to affordable prescription drugs -from inhalers to insulin- to protect those with chronic conditions who are at a higher risk for complications from the virus. With many people struggling financially in the face of the crisis, we need to ensure prescription drugs, including those for COVID-19, are affordable without further burdening the state and the health care system.
"As H. 4888 moves into conference committee, Health Care For All looks forward to working with the House and the Senate to advance comprehensive legislation that addresses some of the shortcomings of our health care system that have been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic."