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Massachusetts House to Vote on Child Health-Care Bill

The phones have been ringing at the Massachusetts State House, and frustrated parents on the other end of the line have convinced their lawmakers some big changes are needed in kids' health care. (Daderot/Wikipedia)
The phones have been ringing at the Massachusetts State House, and frustrated parents on the other end of the line have convinced their lawmakers some big changes are needed in kids' health care. (Daderot/Wikipedia)
July 31, 2019

BOSTON – The Massachusetts House votes today on sweeping legislation that aims to make it easier for young people and their families to navigate the complicated health-care system. Among its many efforts, it addresses the pediatric health workforce, behavioral health and insurance coverage for kids aging out of foster care.

Rep. Jennifer Benson, D-Lunenburg, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, describes the bill as a response to the kinds of constituent phone calls she and her colleagues have been receiving.

"Our constituents are trying to navigate these really critical issues," she said, "and if they run into roadblocks, they'll call our offices and say, 'Can you help us find a provider? Can you help us find a bed for my child?' We've all been getting these calls, and the interventions that have happened so far don't seem to be quite cutting through the complexity of the system."

The legislation is a combination of ideas from several separate bills. One of its goals is to streamline the information that insurance companies provide to patients. It also would automatically enroll young people aging out of foster care into MassHealth, and allow that coverage to continue until age 26.

Benson said this is one step in a two-year legislative effort to prioritize the needs of children throughout the Commonwealth. The bill also requires the Department of Children and Families to issue a report this fall that outlines its plans to improve the foster-care system. This includes making sure foster parents are receiving vital information about the medical history of the children in their care.

"It is important that we not only listen but do our best to address all of these concerns," she said. "This isn't the end of the conversation – this is the beginning."

Benson said the legislation has received widespread support and is expected to pass. Some of its components already have been approved in the state Senate.

Jenn Stanley, Public News Service - MA