2021-22 Government Relations Legislative Agenda
The state legislative agenda for 2021-22 will be focused on topic-related matters rather than specific legislation in order for the Office of Government Relations (OGR) to remain flexible while committing to policies that advance the health and well-being of our patients and children throughout Massachusetts. The COVID-19 pandemic and the recent national spotlight on racism and police brutality have brought to the forefront the need for a systematic shift to refocus on racial and health equity in the upcoming session. This state policy agenda has been assembled with feedback and support from internal experts, external stakeholders, as well as patients, families, and staff. This agenda is not meant to be a comprehensive list of all the bills and topics that may come up during the 2021-22 session and is meant to be a baseline for future advocacy and policy work. This comprehensive health agenda recognizes the intersection and relationship between many of these topics for the upcoming session.
As such, Boston Children’s Hospital is committed to leading in the four following areas:
Health care access
- An Act relative to telehealth and digital equity for patients | S678/H1101 – Sen. Gomez / Rep. Golden: It increases equitable access to telehealth for patients who may be encountering a “digital divide” in telehealth services by establishing new state programs to increase access to technology, internet connectivity, and digital literacy education. This bill also requires that interpretive services for patients with limited English proficiency and for patients who are deaf and hard of hearing be covered by insurance.
- An Act to ensure equitable health coverage for children with disabilities | S763/H1310 – Sen. DiDomenico / Rep. Rodgers: This expands MassHealth CommonHealth coverage to children and low-income young adults with disabilities whose only barrier to this coverage is immigration status, providing coverage for many crucial services that are currently out of reach.
Social determinants of health
- An Act relative to universal school meals | S314/H714 – Sen. DiDomenico/Rep. Vargas: This guarantees quality school meals for all students who need them at no charge to the family by directing schools to leverage federal and state resources to increase access to healthy foods for the one in five households in Massachusetts that are food insecure.
- An Act to streamline access to critical public health and safety-net programs through common applications | S761/H1290 – Sen. DiDomenico/Rep. Livingstone: It directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to take steps to allow low-income applicants and recipients of MassHealth and Medicare Savings Program to simultaneously apply for federally funded supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) benefits at the same time as their application or renewal for MassHealth.
Racial equity and social justice
- An Act relative to expanding equitable access to maternal postpartum care | S799/H1297 – Sen. Lovely/Rep. Miranda: Address inequities in postpartum health and increase positive health outcomes for birthing parents and babies by directing MassHealth to seek approval from the federal government to extend postpartum coverage, which is currently limited to 60 days for those who are eligible solely on the basis of their pregnancy, to 12 months.
- Increase Family Stabilization through the Earned Income Tax Credit | S1852/H2871 – Sen. Eldridge/Rep. Decker & Vargas: Create a guaranteed minimum income (GMI) to ensure that everyone in the Commonwealth can attain a basic standard of living. Creating a GMI program in Massachusetts will be accomplished by enhancing the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) so that it covers more households and delivers larger cash benefits.
- An Act improving emergency housing assistance for children and families experiencing homelessness | S111/H202 – Sen. Gomez/Rep. Decker & Miranda: Omnibus legislation to address barriers for families seeking to access or retain emergency assistance (EA) shelter and HomeBASE rehousing benefits, such as allowing families that appear to be imminently at risk of homelessness admission into EA shelter and prohibit families from being turned away due to lack of documentation.
Behavioral health care
- An Act relative to child ED boarding | S107/H203 – Sen. Friedman/Rep. Decker: Facilitates the creation of a publicly accessible web portal with real-time data on children who have waited 12 or more hours after being assessed to need acute psychiatric treatment and establishes a complex case resolution panel to resolve issues regarding access to services for children with complex behavioral health needs.
- An Act relative to behavioral health urgent care | H2083 – Rep. Decker: Requires the Department of Public Health to develop regulations for urgent care centers, including requiring such centers to provide behavioral health services, creating better access to care during behavioral health crises.
- An Act to create a thriving public health response for adolescents | H2084 – Rep. Decker: Establishes systems and protocols for the creation and maintenance of school-based behavioral health resources to ensure all students’ behavioral health needs are met and that children can access behavioral health services when and where they need them.