MASSACHUSETTS LEGISLATURE ANNOUNCES COMPREHENSIVE PROPOSAL ON SALES TAX HOLIDAY, MINIMUM WAGE, AND FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 26, 2018
Contact: Rep. Natalie Higgins, 978-602-3772, Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov
Massachusetts Legislature Announces Comprehensive Proposal on Sales Tax Holiday, Minimum Wage, and Family and Medical Leave
BOSTON - The Massachusetts House of Representatives and the Massachusetts State Senate announced today a legislative proposal to raise the minimum wage; create a framework for paid family and medical leave for most workers; phase out time-and-a-half pay on Sundays; and establish a permanent sales tax holiday.
“Too many working families in Leominster and across the state are struggling to make ends meet,” said Representative Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster). “This legislation is an important first step in making sure our communities thrive, with a $15 minimum wage, paid family medical leave, and preventing the cuts of $1.25B to the state budget.”
The legislation is based on months of negotiations with stakeholders sponsoring proposed ballot questions for the November 2018 election. It is scheduled to come to the House and Senate floors on Wednesday.
“This compromise strikes the right balance of empowering employees, supporting our hardworking residents and ensuring that businesses can continue to provide good, steady jobs,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I sincerely thank the stakeholders who came to the table and the legislators who brokered this compromise.”
Among other initiatives, this legislative proposal does the following:
· Creates a permanent sales tax holiday, beginning in 2019;
· Increases the minimum wage to $15.00 over the next five years;
· Increases the tip wage to $6.75 over the next five years;
· Phases out premium pay on Sundays and holidays over the next five years;
· Establishes a Department of Family and Medical Leave within the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development;
· Creates a framework for family leave of 12 weeks; family leave for the care of a service member of 26 weeks; and medical leave for up to 20 weeks; and
· Exempts small businesses from financial contribution to the paid family and medical leave fund.
The proposal leaves the sales tax unchanged, and does not impose a teen sub-minimum wage.
“I am pleased to put forward this bill which empowers workers, recognizes the needs of business owners, and ensures that Massachusetts residents will no longer have to choose between caring for a sick relative or losing their job,” said Representative Paul Brodeur (D-Melrose). “This bill is the result of months of negotiations and demonstrates that regardless of what happens in Washington, here in Massachusetts we focus on cooperation and compromise.”
“This deal represents a series of compromises made in the best interest of the Commonwealth. By reaching a thoughtful balance, this package will protect Massachusetts workers while promoting a competitive environment for our local businesses,” said Representative Joseph F. Wagner (D-Chicopee), House Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 26, 2018
Contact: Rep. Natalie Higgins, 978-602-3772, Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov
House Passes Landmark Peter V. Kocot Health Care Legislation
Seeks to stabilize the marketplace and increase transparency
(BOSTON) – Representative Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster) joined her colleagues in the House to pass legislation that seeks to ensure residents across the Commonwealth have access to high-quality health care as the marketplace continues to experience volatility while, at the same time, laying the groundwork for continuous improvement to the Commonwealth’s nationally-leading health care infrastructure.
The Peter V. Kocot Act (PVK Act) builds off the cost containment goals of Chapter 224, Chapter 58, and the Special Commission on Provider Price Variation (PPV Commission) by appropriately recognizing the vital role that community hospitals and community health centers play, both as health care providers and economic drivers. These entities, which traditionally care for underserved populations and those in Gateway Cities and rural areas, will receive both long-term support and a one-time, three-year investment through the Community Hospital Reinvestment Trust Fund (CHRTF). Details of the assessment include:
• $90 million contribution from hospitals which have less than 60 percent Medicaid patients and more than $750 million in net assets.
• Up to $247.5 million from health insurers.
In addition to the assessment, the PVK Act raises professional license fees for various medical providers (these fees have not been raised since 2013) and assesses Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASC) and Urgent Care Centers (UCC) for the first time. This ongoing revenue source will continue to fund CHRTF in perpetuity.
“The Peter V. Kocot Act will bolster our community hospitals and community health centers during a unique time of change in the healthcare marketplace while maintaining our world renowned medical facilities,”said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “This carefully balanced plan seeks to preserve and enhance our healthcare environment in a way that reflects the work and legacy of its namesake, Chairman Peter V. Kocot. I thank Leader Mariano, Chair Sanchez, Vice Chair Roy for their tireless work on this legislation.”
“This bill is aimed at ensuring stability to low-cost alternatives for high-quality healthcare options, particularly in our Gateway Cities,” said Majority Leader Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy). “My hope is this legislation will set the foundations of healthcare systems as they face the challenges of converting from fee-for-service care to a global payment system. The three years of this bill will help transition our healthcare system as it continues to develop.”
“This legislation represents a significant amount of work by the members of the House,” said Representative Jeffrey Sánchez, Chair of the House Committee on Ways & Means (D-Jamaica Plain). “It exemplifies the work of the Speaker’s MCO Working Group in 2015 and the Special Commission on Provider Price Variation in 2017. It’s a thoughtful, responsible approach to helping stabilize community hospitals and community health centers. We focus on improving transparency and care for the benefit of all residents of the Commonwealth, particularly the underserved.”
“Massachusetts continues to lead the way in healthcare and this bill takes significant steps at addressing some of the most pressing concerns in our healthcare system today – price variation, unnecessary cost growth, consumer engagement, and greater transparency," said Representative Jeffrey N. Roy (D-Franklin), House Vice-Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. "It also harnesses technology and innovation to improve the delivery of care and is ultimately shaped around enhancing the experience for patients. At its heart, this bill, in conjunction with our prior legislative efforts, is transforming how we seek to pay for care to promote cost-effective, value driven services in a way that makes the healthcare system more accessible and effective for all of us.”
Over the past decade, Massachusetts has experienced a rapid rise in the number of ASCs and UCCs. To increase oversight and gather additional data on this growing sub-sector, the PVK Act requires licensing through the Department of Public Health (DPH) for both types of entities.
The PVK Act empowers consumers by increasing transparency and patient protections at every stage of the healthcare system. To gain clarity on drug pricing and the role the pharmaceutical industry plays in health care cost-containment, the bill will direct pharmaceutical companies and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to participate in the Health Policy Commission (HPC)'s annual Cost Trends Hearing. It also requires the Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA) to consider pharmaceutical data as part of its cost analysis. Additionally, this legislation prohibits “gag clauses” which are currently included in contracts between PBMs and pharmacists, and prevent a pharmacist from informing a consumer that they are able to purchase a drug at a lower price out of pocket.
The PVK Act addresses surprise and out-of-network billing by removing the patient from the middle and, instead, requiring insurance carriers and doctors to come to a resolution on the appropriate rate of payment. Under this legislation, the consumer is no longer responsible for any services provided by an out-of-network doctor in an emergency situation or one where they unknowingly receive care from an out-of-network provider. The doctor will be paid the higher of two amounts: 115 percent of the carrier’s average rate for services rendered, or 125 percent of the Medicare rate. Any dispute would go before an independent board created by the Division of Insurance (DOI) for resolution. In a non-emergency situation where a patient chooses to have an out-of-network doctor, the doctor must disclose to the patient estimated costs before performing the services.
This legislation also supports small business by providing more options for low-cost, high value health plans and creating a study to improve the merged market. Small business owners and their employees will now have more choices when selecting health insurance plans and will have more information, presented in a clear and uniform manner, on which providers and services are available to them. The bill also promotes the use of telemedicine, which expands access to care and provides consumers with new choices on how they receive care. A study that will look at the current dynamic of the merged market will yield recommendations to reduce barriers and improve the shopping experience for both small businesses and individuals.
Understanding the complexities of scope of practice proposals, the PVK Act creates an objective, data-driven process to determine when an expansion of scope is advisable. Under this legislation:
• A joint committee of the Legislature will be able to request an objective review of any scope proposal by CHIA.
• CHIA would have 180 days to examine the current scope of a licensed profession and, with input from the Betsy Lehman Center, gather data and analyze information on safety and cost regarding a proposed expansion.
• Once the objective analysis is completed, the report is sent to the HPC for its review. The HPC then makes a recommendation to the Legislature within 90 days.
The PVK Act also reauthorizes the Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund (PWTF), created in Chapter 224, under the HPC with new reporting requirements. Funded through a transfer of funds from CHIA and new recreational marijuana revenue, the PWTF will focus its efforts on increasing access to community-based prevention services, reducing the impact of health condition drivers, and developing a stronger evidence base for effective prevention programming. A portion of the PWTF grants will go to regional grants to ensure that prevention dollars are dispersed throughout the Commonwealth.
Provider directories, which patients use to select providers that accept their health insurance, will now be subject to more rigorous standards to ensure the accuracy of the information and that changes are made in a timely fashion. A new task force will provide recommendations on how to make provider directories more consumer friendly and easily searchable.
Several other new commissions will examine administrative costs in health care, availability and quality of nursing homes, and barriers to foreign medical professionals practicing in Massachusetts
The Peter V. Kocot Act now goes to the Senate for consideration.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 22, 2018
Contact: Isabelle Greene, Program Director, Isabelle.email@example.com, 617.626.6522
Francine Meigs of Leominster named as an Unsung Heroine
MASSACHUSETTS COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN
ANNOUNCED UNSUNG HEROINES OF 2018
Francine Meigs of Leominster was honored as a member of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women’s 2018 class of Unsung Heroines. State Representative Natalie Higginsrecommended Ms. Meigs or this recognition because of her commitment to her students, empowering them to positively impact their community. Ms. Meigs was honored with 130 other Unsung Heroines for her outstanding contributions to her Leominster in a ceremony on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 from 1-4 p.m., in the Great Hall at the State House in Boston.
Francine Meigs is an 8th Grade Special Education teacher at Samoset Middle School in Leominster. Ms. Meigs is an exceptional education and doesn’t stop at the end of the school day. She also supports after school programming with Academic Support and Math Cafe. Ms. Meigs is always looking for opportunities for her students to give back to the community. She has worked with the United Way Youth Venture to support student community service including book drives, support for veterans, and autism awareness.
“Francine believes her middle school students are change-makers and she goes above and beyond to empower her students to build a better community,” said Rep. Higgins.
The Unsung Heroines are women who don’t make the news, but make the difference. They are the women who use their time, talent and enthusiasm to enrich the lives of others and make a difference in their neighborhoods, cities and towns. They are mentors, volunteers and innovators who do what needs to be done without expectations of recognition or gratitude. These women are the glue that keeps a community together and every community is better because of their contribution.
The ceremony included a program emceed by MCSW Chair Margot Parrot, acknowledging each of the 2018 Unsung Heroines, along with remarks from Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, Speaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo, Senate President Harriette L. Chandler and Representative Colleen M. Garry, Co-Chair of the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators. The ceremony was followed by a group photograph and a “Just Desserts” reception.
A complete list of this year’s honorees is available by contacting the Commission; to request this list or for additional information please contact the MCSW at 617-626-6520 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This event was made possible with the generous support of the following sponsors: Baystate Health, Eastern Bank, Girls Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, Jacqueline’s Gourmet Cookies, Kerry Goodwin Photography, Polar Beverages, and SM Lorusso and Sons, Inc.
The Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women is an independent state agency that was legislatively created in 1998 to advance women of the Commonwealth to full equality in all areas of life and to promote their rights and opportunities. The MCSW provides a permanent, effective voice for the women of Massachusetts.