It has been quite a busy week! I attended a variety of events in the district this week in addition to Senate business, and continued my listening tour with local town officials.
This week the Senate was busy voting on innovative ways to increase healthcare access, protect patients, and enhance quality care. The Patients First Act, which was passed on Thursday, builds on vital lessons learned during the COVID-19 Pandemic, and brings us closer towards creating a healthcare system that meets the needs of all Massachusetts residents. In addition to making Telehealth services permanently available to patients after the COVID-19 state of emergency has ended, the bill also protects patients from surprise billing for out-of-network healthcare services, and extends the scope of practice for health care professionals. These measures will increase access to quality care for Massachusetts residents, and will especially benefit Western Massachusetts. Lastly, the Patients First Act directs the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission and the Center for Health Information and Analysis to analyze the state of our health care delivery systems, and study the long- and short- term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that future policy decisions are made accordingly. There were a number of amendments passed that I cosponsored myself, including amendments that will ensure reimbursement of facility fees from insurers, and require that prior authorization is only required for telehealth services where it would also be required for the equivalent in-person service. I was proud to vote to pass this comprehensive piece of legislation, and am thankful for all the work that Senator Cindy Friedman and all my other colleagues put into the bill.
On Wednesday, the report commissioned by Governor Baker to investigate the deaths of veterans at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home was released. It was absolutely gut wrenching to read more about the tragic loss of life at the Home, and deeply saddening to learn of some of the troubling decisions that were made during the pandemic. Medical decisions were made regarding infection control that had devastating results. Our veterans deserve the highest quality of care, and we must ensure that proper oversight and funding is in place. Over the past weeks, I have been in conversations with Home personnel, Holyoke officials, and the Commonwealth’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Mary Sudders, and I will keep the district informed as new information comes out. I am a strong supporter of increased funding for the home, and believe that the needs of future veterans must be studied so that the home may be sustainable for years to come.
I also was able to go to a variety of events in the district this week and met with many constituents. On Tuesday, I joined veterans and advocates in Holyoke outside of the Soldiers’ Home to support increased funding for the facility. Early Friday Morning, I was able to attend Westfield’s Pride Flag Raising alongside residents and town officials at Westfield City Hall. In addition to these events, I continued my listening tour of the district, and met with both the Southwick and Montgomery Selectboards. I’d also like to thank Westfield Fire Chief Patrick Egloff and Southwick Fire Chief Russ Anderson for the insight they provided on how important proper ambulance reimbursement rates are to their departments. This was an issue that came up in one of the amendments for the Patients First Act, and I am grateful for the feedback they shared with my office.