For Immediate Release: Tuesday, December 22, 2020
Boston. – “Health Care For All (HCFA) is pleased the House and Senate Conference Committee finalized a health care bill that takes important steps to protect consumers and ensure access to health care services during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. We commend legislative leaders for making progress on important policies that are critical to the health and health care of millions of Massachusetts residents, and we thank the Conferees for their work during a very challenging time.
“HCFA applauds the Conference Committee for including strong telehealth provisions. Telehealth has been a vital way for consumers to access health care during the pandemic and can help alleviate barriers to care in the long term. In particular, the bill permanently requires coverage and payment for behavioral health services – both audio-visual and telephone – at the same rate as in-person visits. This provision helps support a behavioral health system that has been historically underfunded and ensures that consumers who do not have sufficient technology or internet connectivity can get the care they need. In addition, this legislation recognizes the importance of primary care and chronic disease management by requiring insurers to reimburse providers at the same rate for telehealth and in-person care for the next two years.
“The bill takes important first steps to prevent surprise out-of-network billing by strengthening requirements that insurers and providers disclose in advance whether a provider is out-of-network. This policy will allow consumers to make informed decisions about where to receive treatment and understand potential cost implications before accessing care. It is important to note that the full consumer protections from surprise billing will not be in place until the appointed government agencies make recommendations and propose out-of-network rates. HCFA is pleased that this report is being commissioned and will be eager for the full consumer protections to be implemented when the report is completed and further legislative action is taken.
“The bill makes scope-of-practice changes for several health care specialties, but it does not authorize dental therapists. HCFA strongly believes these mid-level dental providers are essential for meeting oral health needs in Massachusetts and would increase access to care, particularly in communities where there is a shortage of dental providers. In the future, HCFA will work with community-based organizations to advance the field of dental therapy as a way to promote health equity and enhance diversity and inclusion in the oral health workforce.
“The Conference Committee report ensures that testing and a broad array of treatments for COVID-19 are widely accessible without out-of-pocket costs for patients at both in-network and out-of-network facilities. This provision will remove barriers to care for communities across the Commonwealth and particularly for communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
“HCFA appreciates the work of both chambers to address health care issues before the end of the legislative session and encourages the House and Senate to pass this Conference Committee report as an important step forward for ensuring consumers can access the health care services they need.”
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