More Affordable Care Act aims to help Mass. residents with chronic illness pay for treatment [Wicked Local Metro, Needham, Mass.]
Wicked Local Metro (Needham, MA)
Oct. 5—The results of a study released by Health Care For All and Altarum last week found people of color and low-income families are more likely than white people to forego their medical treatment because of their inability to pay, even if they have insurance.
"There have been issues with healthcare access over the years," said Rep. Christine Barber, whose district covers both Medford and Somerville.
The pandemic only made matters worse, so Barber and state Sen. John Keenan, whose district covers Norfolk and Plymouth, partnered to work on the MAC Act, or the 'More Affordable Care' Act, a piece of legislation supporting constituents and small businesses to make healthcare more affordable and equitable.
"The fact that constituents have insurance and still can't afford the treatment they need is really concerning," Barber continued.
Over the last 10 months, Barber and Keenan have come together to address the concerns facing their communities — individuals, their families, and small businesses — following the pandemic.
"The bill we have been working tirelessly on is targeted to help people with chronic illnesses, including asthma and diabetes, pay for their medical treatment," Barber said. "People of color are disproportionately affected, and [COVID-19] really enhanced this fact."
The MAC Act will work in a few ways:
— Eliminate co-pays for certain health care services and treatments for seven types of chronic conditions that disproportionately impact communities of color and low-income communities: diabetes, asthma/COPD, hypertension, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, opioid use disorder, and bipolar disorder/schizophrenia.
— Lower premiums for individuals and small businesses by creating a reinsurance program to share the risk for high-cost patients.
— Keep deductibles, co-pays, and premiums from rising rapidly by updating the Health Policy Commission cost trends process to create a specific consumer cost growth benchmark for insurers.
— Address insurance premium increases by strengthening the Division of Insurance health insurance rate review process and enhancing transparency.
— Ensure continued availability of $0 plans for low-income ConnectorCare members.
"The reinsurance program will help small businesses, specifically, because health insurance has gone up tremendously over the last few years," Barber said. "As a state and in our communities, we will assess large businesses and get help from the federal government to match (and double) the cost of insurance to lower the cost of premiums overall."
A few weeks ago, the state's committee on healthcare financing met to discuss the MAC Act as well as a few other bills in healthcare legislation. While the results of Health Care For All and Altarum's study have exposed the very real problem many Massachusetts' residents face, the bill has yet to pass in the Senate.
The bill will continue into the 2022 session, and Barber and Keenan hope that's when it'll be passed as well.
"We need to take action. People are already dealing with so much, [taking care of healthcare costs] shouldn't be stressful, too, especially post-COVID," Barber said. "People should not have to choose between putting food on the table and paying for healthcare treatment."
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