Two months after teasing it in a speech to the Legislature, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday offered up a comprehensive health care bill targeting access and cost in the system as he looks to make progress in an area where he burnished his own reputation in the private sector before becoming governor.
Baker visited Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester on Tuesday afternoon to detail his bill. The governor's proposal arrives with just over four months remaining for formal sessions this year and lawmakers already deep down the road toward health care system changes.
The bill builds off ideas Baker first proposed in 2019 when he filed legislation that would have required health care providers and insurers to boost their spending on addiction services, behavioral health, primary care and geriatric services by 30% over three years. That bill, which stalled as the pandemic took hold, would have encouraged more behavioral health providers to accept insurance, including MassHealth, and taken steps to address surprise out-of-network billing and escalating drug prices.
Baker suggested in his State of the Commonwealth address in January that he intended to return to some themes from his 2019 bill. He said some his ideas such as the expanded use of telehealth services have been adopted, others "have not been addressed."
"The message remains the same: the healthcare system doesn't value behavioral health services, primary care and geriatric services. As a result, there are enormous staff and clinician shortages in exactly the areas of care that we need most," Baker said in his speech.
The House this session passed a bill focused on providing more scrutiny of hospital expansions to limit costs and protect community hospitals. The Senate has approved bills aimed at broadening access to mental health care and controlling prescription drug prices.