Every day, Health Care For All (HCFA) hears on our HelpLine from consumers struggling to access and afford health care. The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased these challenges and highlighted widespread inequities in our health care system. HCFA is working in coalition with community organizations, health care providers, advocates, faith-based groups, small businesses, and other stakeholders to advocate for seven bills for the 2021-2022 legislative session.
These legislative proposals will make health care coverage, services, and medications more affordable and accessible, especially for communities of color and low-income people. The bills will simplify health insurance processes and paperwork, improve continuity of maternal health coverage, expand comprehensive coverage to immigrant children with disabilities, and examine oral health needs across Massachusetts communities. Together, these bills represent an effort to address the deep structural inequities of our health care system and move forward towards a Massachusetts that prioritizes health justice for all its residents.
- We need to make health care more affordable. Health care is too expensive. Individuals and families are being asked to pay more than their fair share with co-pays, deductibles and premiums increasing every year. No one should have to forgo a life-saving treatment or doctor’s visit because they can’t afford it. Premiums shouldn’t cause financial hardship. The More Affordable Care (MAC) Act(HD2708/SD1716) would make certain medications and treatments for several chronic conditions that disproportionally impact communities of color and low-income communities free of charge. The MAC Act would also create a program to lower premiums for individuals and small businesses, as well as promote transparency for insurance cost increases. The Transparency for High-Cost Hospitals Act (SD1718) would require more transparency about how much hospitals contribute to the costs faced by individuals and families.
- We need to improve prescription drug affordability. Prescription drug prices continue to rise, increasing the cost of health insurance and making it harder for individuals and families to afford the medications they need. An Act to ensure prescription drug cost transparency and affordability(HD2948) and An Act relative to pharmaceutical access, cost and transparency (SD2217) would create a new review process to address consumer affordability for drug prices that are unreasonable or excessive. The bills would also create patient assistance programs to make certain chronic disease medications more affordable.
- We need to extend postpartum coverage for birthing people.Maternal mortality and morbidity are growing health crises in the United States, especially for People of Color. Comprehensive health coverage is important not only to address life-threatening conditions in the days and weeks after birth, but also to address maternal and child health issues longer term. However, People who are eligible for MassHealth because of their pregnancy lose this coverage after just 60 days postpartum, limiting access to key services such as chronic disease management, mental health screenings, and other essential support services. An Act expanding equitable access to postpartum care (HD2470/SD1929) would extend MassHealth coverage to 12 months postpartum, ensuring continuous coverage during a critical time.
- We need to make health care more accessible. Health plans routinely require patients to obtain pre-approval, also known as prior authorization, for a prescribed health service or medication as a way to control costs and oversee coverage decisions. Obtaining prior authorizations can be difficult for patients and providers due to the different forms and processes each health plan uses. An Act to improve the Health Insurance Prior Authorization Process (HD3799/SD1184) would create a commission to review and simplify the prior authorization process to provide timely, safe and affordable access to evidence-based care.
- We need to understand the oral health challenges of Massachusetts residents. Dental care is a critical component of overall health care, yet access to dental coverage and services is out of reach for many Massachusetts residents. Currently, data on oral health needs and access to care is extremely outdated, hindering policymakers’ ability to create possible policy solutions. An Act Establishing an Oral Health Commission and Needs Assessment (HD2962/SD1526) is an important step to acquire an accurate picture of the oral health needs of residents across the state and address racial, linguistic and geographic disparities in access to oral health care.
- We need to improve access to care for children with disabilities, regardless of immigration status. Thousands of low-income children and young adults with disabilities can only access health safety net programs with strict limits on covered benefits. Immigration status is the only factor preventing these children from qualifying for MassHealth CommonHealth. An Act to ensure equitable access to health coverage for children with disabilities (HD2945/SD1909) would expand CommonHealth coverage to immigrant children and young adults with disabilities, providing coverage for many crucial services that are currently out of reach.
The time is now! We need people across the state to call or email their legislators and ask them to co-sponsor these bills. To find more information and further advocacy materials for these bills, click here. To get involved and reach out to your legislators about any of these bills, just click here.