December 5 2019

Sen. Friedman and Rep. Gordon Applaud Passage of Bill on Children’s Health and Wellness

By: BNEWS

A bill designed to increase childrens’ access to quality health care by requiring insurers to provide more and complete information that was supported by both of Burlington’s representatives in the Statehouse has been signed into law. 

 

According to a joint release from their offices, Senator Cindy Friedman and Representative Ken Gordon recently joined their legislative colleagues in passing An Act Relative to Children’s Health and Wellness to increase access to vital behavioral health services for children in the Commonwealth. The bill was later signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker on November 26, 2019.

 

“There are several barriers to access for children in the Commonwealth who are in need of behavioral health services, and this legislation takes several steps to address them,” said Sen. Friedman, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “I’m especially proud that this comprehensive bill requires provider network directories to be more transparent and include accurate, up-to-date information to help connect children with the mental health providers that they need. I want to acknowledge Senate President Spilka for putting mental health initiatives at the forefront of our legislative agenda this session as well as sincerely thank Rep. Benson and all of the conferees for their hard work on this issue and their commitment to improving children’s behavioral health services in our state.”

 

“This bill will provide better access to behavior health care for those who need it most,” Rep Gordon added. ”It is a great approach to addressing the needs of our most vulnerable children and I’m proud with the way the Legislature has taken action.” 

 

The Children’s Health and Wellness bill will ensure that consumers have the necessary information available to meet their health needs, the release states. Several barriers to care exist for children in need of behavioral health services, partially due to the lack of accurate, up-to-date information listed on provider network directories. 

 

“More often than not, these directories – often criticized as ‘ghost networks’ – list providers that are no longer in business, do not accept a patient’s insurance, are not taking new patients, or provide inaccurate information,” the joint release states. “These obstacles keep patients from accessing the care they need, frequently forcing them to abandon seeking treatment.” 

 

To mitigate this barrier to access, this legislation requires insurers’ provider network directories to be more transparent and include the most up-to-date list of participating doctors and specialists and their services. The legislation also forms a task force to study and recommend further improvements to provider directories – particularly information about behavioral health providers.

 

In addition, this legislation addresses issues related to health care access for children who have aged out of the foster care system by automatically enrolling them in MassHealth, the release states. Under this bill, individuals under the age of 26 who were previously under Department of Children and Families (DCF) custody, or in foster care when they turned 18 years old, would automatically receive the benefit of MassHealth coverage. 

 

The legislation also directs the Health Policy Commission (HPC), in consultation with the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS), the Department of Public Health (DPH), and the Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA), to conduct a study and analysis of children with medically complex needs in the Commonwealth. The analysis would include information on health care coverage, access to services, services utilized, and the cost of caring for children with medical complexities. 

 

Additionally, the legislation establishes a pilot program creating three regional Childhood Behavioral Health Centers of Excellence, the release states. Each center will act as a resource for families, clinicians, and school districts, with comprehensive information on services in the area for minors in early childhood through adolescence. Each center will maintain updated lists of available pediatric providers, and a staffed telephone number and email address for parents to request information.

 

The bill addresses several other pressing pediatric health care issues by creating special commissions on the pediatric provider workforce, school-based health centers, and mandated reporter laws, as well as establishing a task force on pediatric behavioral health screening.


 

 
Web Design by Polar Design