Quincy state Sen. John Keenan pushes for more-affordable health care - The Patriot Ledger
The bill, dubbed the More Affordable Care Act, would eliminate copays for service and treatments among certain chronic conditions.
BOSTON – State Sen. John Keenan touted his proposed health care affordability bill on Monday during a briefing by advocacy group Health Care for All. The group released the results of a survey showing more than half of the Bay Staters who responded – more than 1,000 – have had trouble paying for health care.
Keenan's bill, dubbed the More Affordable Care Act, would eliminate co-pays for service and treatments for certain chronic conditions that disproportionately affect people of color. It would also lower premiums for adults and small businesses by creating a reinsurance program to share the cost risk of very sick patients. The bill also aims to slow the rate of rising health care costs through state benchmarks and stronger rate reviews for insurers.
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"Too many Massachusetts residents are experiencing health care burdens," Keenan, a Quincy Democrat, said during the briefing. "The main barrier to people being insured is cost."
Keenan said small businesses are holding off on hiring people because of the cost of insurance. Keenan's co-sponsor on the bill is state Rep. Christine Barber, a Somerville Democrat.
Peter Forman, president and CEO of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement that the reinsurance pooling of high-cost patients is an "innovative, fresh" move.
"This would be a positive step to helping small businesses struggling with recovery (from the pandemic),” Forman said.
During the briefing, Health Care for All released results from a May survey conducted by Altarum Healthcare Value Hub that showed most of the Massachusetts residents surveyed are worried about health care costs.
The survey of 1,150 Massachusetts adults showed that 51 percent of them had previously experienced the burden of health care cost hardships, including sometimes skipping treatment, and the same percentage of respondents said they were worried about being able to afford COVID-19 treatments if they needed it. Even more, 74 percent, of respondents said they worried about affording health care in the future.
The survey showed that health care cost burdens disproportionately affected people of color and those with lower incomes.
“Massachusetts families have been drowning in health care costs for far too long, and COVID-19 has pulled back the curtain and revealed the challenges that have long existed in our health care system,” said Amy Rosenthal, executive director of Health Care for All, in a statement. “These results should spur legislators into action to deliver families the relief they so urgently need. We must pass the More Affordable Care Act and prescription drug cost reform this session.”
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In addition to pushing Keenan's bill, the policy group touted legislation by state Sen. Cindy Friedman, an Arlington Democrat, and state Rep. Jon Santiago, a Boston Democrat, both aimed at reining in the costs of health care and prescriptions.
Santiago, a physician in the emergency department of Boston Medical Center, said he frequently sees patients who can not afford their medicine.
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Joe Difazio can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @jldifazio.