Representative Jennifer Benson’s Legislation for the 2015-2016 Legislative Session

This is a cost savings bill that would create a Bundled Payment Payment Pilot program through the Office of Medicaid. A Bundled payment is when there is a single predetermined payment to multiple providers for an entire episode of care.  The pilot program would model the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) 4 models of care.  Under this pilot program, providers will enter into payment arrangements that include financial and performance accountability for episodes of care. CMS has found that the bundled payment model could lead to higher quality, more coordinated care at a lower cost to Medicare.

This bill will ensure that federal Medicaid healthcare funding is used for state healthcare purposes and not re-directed to other uses. It directs the comptroller to deposit the enhanced MassHealth matching revenue into a new fund called the MassHealth and Health Care Reform FMAP Trust Fund.  This will ensure the funding is used to support state health care programs, including low-income health insurance coverage, and to enhance MassHealth provider reimbursement if possible. While local spending priorities may vary over time, the enhanced federal matching funds which will flow for years to come should be protected and preserved for its intended purpose.

This bill would ease the financial impact of increased income by providing that PACE and Waiver participants with income over program limits be charged a premium equal to income above program income limits and below the average monthly cost of nursing home care.  Eligibility and premium levels would be capped at the cost of nursing home care.  The bill stipulates that MassHealth should apply for a federal waiver to implement the premium mechanism if one is required. 

This bill would require the state every year to compare our total health care spending with our projected health care spending if the Commonwealth implemented a single payer health care system; if after several years the “Single Payer Benchmark” outperformed our actual health care spending, the state would be responsible for developing a single payer implementation plan and submitting it to the Legislature.

As consumers are asked to be more savvy health care shoppers, they can only do so with accurate information.  While the cost of a drug varies significantly depending on the source, consumers who are increasingly facing co-insurance (rather than a fixed co-pay) must know the cost of a drug before they can choose the plan that most efficiently meets their needs. Without this information, consumers will pick the wrong plan, unnecessarily increasing their cost and likelihood that they forgo needed medications.  This bill would ensure that all the necessary cost information is available to consumers when they choose their health plans, whether through the Connector website, their employer’s health insurance site or other means.

This bill ensures that step therapy programs are based on appropriate clinical guidelines; ensures that any required drug sequences are developed independently by clinical experts; establishes basic set of protections for when patients should be exempted from step therapy programs, such as when a drug is contraindicated or previously tried; and it ensures that exceptions processes are transparent to patients and health care providers.

This legislation would require all private agencies, group care facilities and group care residences serving persons with developmental disabilities to file information with DDS which will be made available to the public in an easily accessible format. This will enable persons with disabilities and their families to make informed decisions about the providers and agencies they plan to use.

This bill would allow spouses to be included as paid caregivers in the MassHealth program.

Currently, if the owner of a tank containing hazardous materials will not grant access to public safety officials, town officials and the DEP have no recourse to contain the hazard until the tank begins leaking. This legislation would allow the DEP to contain any hazardous materials with the permission of either the owner or the municipality and to recover costs for such containment from the owner or through the Federal Leaking Underground Storage Tank Program.

This bill would update the laws for regional school district bonding elections. Currently, polls can only be open for a maximum of eight hours for elections relating to regional school bonding questions. This bill would increase the maximum to thirteen hours, bringing the law into line with other municipal elections.

The Personal Needs Allowance (PNA) pays for expenses not covered by Medicaid for nursing/rest home residents.  This money helps residents pay for cothing, shoes and other personal needs. This bill has the PNA at $72.80.

This Campus Safety bill would create a “Massachusetts Assault Review Board” and a “Massachusetts Task Force to Combat Sexual Assault”, both aimed at improving prevention, and response proceedings for sexual assault incidents on public universities and college campuses.  The intent of the bill is to hold campuses accountable to effective response proceedings should an assault occur.  The review board will provide an independent and impartial point of view for judicial proceedings. The task force will be responsible for developing and recommending best protocols to be used by higher education institutions.

This bill would change guidelines and expand programs to increase healthy eating in public schools by creating a waiver process in compliance with the final school nutrition regulations established by the Department of Public Health and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  Passage of the bill would create a Healthy Kitchens MSBA pilot Program for public elementary and secondary schools with the purpose of updating school kitchens for fresh food preparation and storage.  Included is the farm-to-school pilot program, which aims to improve access to local foods in eligible schools; increase the supply of fresh, locally grown farm products served for meals and snacks in K-12 school environments, and incorporates better education and engagement around healthy food choices.

This bill would allow the director, under the direction and supervision of the chief administrative magistrate, to hire an attorney to serve as pro se facilitator to unrepresented parents, so that they may access the bureau’s dispute resolution processes.

This bill, filed in conjunction with the Massachusetts Advocates for Children, would establish a pilot program to encourage schools to create or expand high-quality in-district programs for students with disabilities. The program would provide grants to up to 6 towns to establish in-district special education programs for students previously sent to out  of district placements. It would also create an oversight board to assess the new programs and evaluate their success and any potential cost savings.

This bill creates a commission to study the way the Commonwealth currently funds students with severe special needs. The commission would look at alternative methods of directing funding for the education of this population. The current formula is disruptive for both schools and families of special needs students. The Commission will focus on the idea of having funding follow a child with severe disabilities from diagnosis through adulthood. This would offer cohesive services for the child and his/her family and would remove the funding burden from school districts.

This bill would allow every individual, both single and married, filing a return, to voluntarily contribute all or part of any refund to which they are entitled to be credited to the Massachusetts State Public Health HIV and Hepatitis Fund.  Contributions credited to this Fund may be used for clinical and public health research, program evaluation, and prevention, testing, and treatment services with the goal of reducing illness and death related to infection with HIV or viral hepatitis.

The bill would expand the scope of practice for nurse practitioners by updating section 80B of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2012 Official Edition. The intent is to increase access to health care providers by allowing nurse practitioners to be considered qualified with in the carriers definition of a primary care provider to an insured. This bill would expand the functions of a nurse practitioner by including the ability to order tests, therapeutics and prescribing medications, among other functions.  The bill requires the board of medicine to develop and promulgate regulations relative to the independent practice of nurse practitioners in the Commonwealth. 

In the Commonwealth, 690,004 are currently impacted by diabetes, which costs the Commonwealth’s economy $6. 6 billion. This bill would create a Massachusetts Diabetes State Action Plan through the Exec. Office of Health and Human Services.  The MA Diabetes State Action Plan would call on appropriate agencies (DPH, HPC, CHIA, GIC, etc.) to collaborate to identify and better understand the impact of diabetes in MA, set goals to reduce the increasing impact of diabetes, and develop state agency and department plans to reduce the frequency of diabetes. 

This bill would add “family caregiver” to the anti-discrimination laws in the workplace.

Section 1 of this bill would add freelancers to the independent contractor exception.  If an individual were to certify to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development that he or she were a visual artist, writer, photographer, or designer contracting with multiple entities, then he or she would not need be classified as an employee.  Section 2 would mandate that the Department of Labor and Workforce Development promulgate regulations for the certification of freelancers. 

This bill would amend the Junior Operator Law to require the RMV to send all written warnings or citations issued to junior operators to the operator’s parent/guardian. This would keep parents informed of their child’s driving status and help them work with their child to prevent loss of license or other future consequences.

This bill would update the farm-winery legislation passed in 2010, to allow farmer-breweries to also obtain a license from the local licensing authority to sell beer at indoor or outdoor agriculture events such as fairs or recognized farmers’ markets. By allowing farmer brewers the opportunity to sell their beers at farmers’ markets, they will be able to expand their markets for their beverages, increase their sales, grow their businesses, and ultimately benefit the Commonwealth’s economy.

This legislation would recognize the dangers police officers face very day, and create harsher penalties for causing severe bodily injury to a police officer while resisting arrest. Violators would face up to 5 years in jail or 2 1/2 years in a house of corrections and/or a fine of $5,000.