Legislation

Bills filed for the 2023-2024 session by Representative Ruth B. Balser

To see the text of all legislation:   https://malegislature.gov

Addiction

HD2465 An Act ensuring access to addiction services

This bill ensures that those men who are civilly committed for treatment under Section 35 because they have a substance use disorder that is deemed to be a serious risk to self or others, will be treated in a healthcare facility and not a correctional facility. Massachusetts has already prohibited sending women to Section 35 programs at correctional facilities. It is time that the same message – that addiction is an illness, not a crime – apply to men, as well.

HD3275 An Act regarding consistent care for addiction rooted in evidence

This bill requires all state and county correctional facilities to provide Medication Assisted Treatment for all substance use disorders and alcohol use disorder. It ensures that the provision of medication is timely, continuous, and available from pretrial detention through post-conviction. The bill also requires that anyone suffering from substance or alcohol use disorder be offered relevant behavioral health counseling.

HD3540 An Act relative to treatment, not imprisonment

This bill ensures that a relapse is recognized as a part of the illness of addiction and not deemed to be a violation of probation. Rather than be incarcerated because of a relapse, the individual, who is on probation, should be required to be in treatment.

Mental Health

HD2347 An Act transferring Bridgewater State Hospital from the Department of Corrections to the Department of Mental Health

This bill places the responsibility for the oversight of Bridgewater State Hospital with the Department of Mental Health, rather than the Department of Corrections.

HD2370 An Act relative to ensuring quality mental health services in state correctional facilities

This bill ensures that the Department of Mental Health has oversight of mental health services in the state prison system.

HD2381 An Act to update mental health parity

This bill eliminates the distinction in the Massachusetts mental health parity law between so-called “biologically based disorders” and “non-biologically based disorders” and ensures that all mental health conditions are treated in the same way as all other medical conditions in terms of health insurance coverage.  This bill would bring Massachusetts law in line with federal law.

HD2438 An Act requiring mental health parity for disability policies

This bill would require that disability policies provide the same benefits for behavioral health disorders as other medical disorders.

HD1305 An Act to promote social-emotional learning

This bill requires social-emotional learning to be included in teacher training.

HD1222 An Act providing continuity of care for mental health treatment

This bill requires that a health plan pay for the continuation of mental health treatment with a provider in the instance where the consumer changes health plans and their provider is not on the new plan, or if for some other reason the provider is no longer on the provider network, so long as the provider agrees to the terms of the plan.

HD3504 An Act establishing the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact

This bill authorizes the Governor to execute a compact with other states to regulate the day-to-day practice of telepsychology by psychologists across state boundaries. 

HD2221 An Act to ensure MassHealth rate parity for behavioral health inpatient providers

This bill requires Medicaid’s health plans and third-party administrators to reimburse all network inpatient behavioral health providers not less than the MassHealth fee for service per diem rate for inpatient behavioral health care.  MassHealth has recently adopted this policy; this bill would codify the policy in statute.

HD1242 An Act to require equitable payment from the Commonwealth

This bill requires that the Executive Office of Health and Human Services ensure that psychiatric hospitals who treat patients who also are clients of state agencies be reimbursed their full negotiated rate when these clients are unable to be discharged because there is no long-term placement currently available.

HD1274 An Act relative to transparency of consumer health insurance rights

This bill requires carriers to display certain information on their enrollment cards, including “This health plan is fully-insured, subject to all the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” This provides consumers and providers clarity about whether the many vital protection afforded by Massachusetts state laws, including mental health parity, apply to their coverage and about pathways to appeal a denial or seek regulatory assistance.

HD1280 An Act relative to facilitating the utilization of psychologists on the health care team

This legislation amends the Nurse Practice Act to authorize nurses to fill orders issued by psychologists. This does not change the scope of practice for either the nurse or the psychologist.

HD3528 An Act establishing senior psychologist licensure

This bill would establish a senior psychologist category of licensure to facilitate the licensure of psychologists who have been licensed and practicing as a psychologist in another state for an extended period of time, but whose paper records of training and education may no longer be available.

Health Care

HD2317 An Act relative to breast cancer screening and early detection

The bill would increase access to women for breast cancer screening and diagnosis by requiring insurance coverage for digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) and extending insurance coverage for additional screening of patients with dense breast tissue or high risk for cancer.  DBT provides a clearer and more accurate view compared to traditional mammography, with higher cancer detection rates and fewer patient recalls for additional testing. 18 states have passed such a mandate, including Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

HD3473 An Act relative to utilization review

This bill would limit the use of prior authorization and other forms of utilization review by health plans for prescription medications that are generic, that are not controlled substances, and for dosage changes of the same medication, in order to increase access for patients.

HD2254 An Act making technical changes to the Betsy Lehman Center for patient safety and medical error reduction enabling statute

This bill includes technical amendments to clarify that there are no barriers to state agencies agreeing to share their patient safety data with the Betsy Lehman Center, and vice versa. 

Immigrant Rights

HD2459 An Act to protect the civil rights and safety of all Massachusetts residents

This bill ensures that Massachusetts will be a safe and welcoming community for immigrants and refugees by prohibiting local and state involvement in federal immigration enforcement, unless required by law. By making clear that there is no local or state involvement with federal immigration enforcement, immigrants will be able to trust public health and public safety authorities in Massachusetts. The US Supreme Court, in declining to take on the case, affirmed the lower court’s ruling that a state is well within its rights to restrict its law enforcement from taking on federal immigration responsibilities.

Public Health & Safety

 HD1257 An Act relative to enhanced fire protection in new one- and two-family dwellings

This legislation allows any city or town, by local option adoption, to require the installation of automatic sprinkler systems in new construction of 1- and 2-family homes.

HD1267 An Act relative to fire protection

This bill clarifies the standard for requiring the installation of automatic sprinkler systems in rehabilitated buildings.

HD1309 An Act protecting the health and safety of people in restaurants

This bill would remove the 25-person threshold for requiring that restaurant employees receive training in responding to a choking incident, and instead require that restaurants of any size have the safety requirement. Additionally, the bill removes outmoded methods of responding to a choking incident and requires the DPH to adopt regulations identifying approved methods. Health departments would be required to inform restaurants of their responsibilities under the law.

HD1538 An Act reducing construction noise and ensuring worker safety

This legislation requires that construction vehicles that are otherwise required to have a backup alarm use a white noise backup alarm in compliance with the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. These alarms, compared to high-pitched beeping alarms, can be used directionally to reduce ambient noise while decreasing alarm fatigue in construction workers. The use of these alarms would reduce noise pollution while improving worker safety.

Judiciary

HD1297 An Act to ensure equitable representation in probate court proceedings involving children

This bill will ensure equitable representation between the parties in Probate Court child custody cases in which a non-custodial, indigent biological parent receives court-appointed counsel, by establishing that the custodial parent or guardian is also entitled to court-appointed counsel, regardless of whether they are indigent.

Aging Adults

HD3443 An Act to ensure the quality of care in nursing homes

This bill will improve the quality of care provided to nursing home residents by increasing the minimum number of hours of care per resident per day from 3.5 to 4.1, requiring nursing facilities to adopt policies to provide staff and technology to residents to prevent social isolation, and by creating a pathway towards single or double occupancy rooms. This bill has the support of AARP.

HD3451 An Act to address the overuse of temporary nursing service agencies at Massachusetts skilled nursing facilities  

This legislation seeks to curb the ballooning costs of temporary nursing agencies at skilled nursing facilities and to direct regulatory amendments (to 101 CMR 345) that establish stronger conflict-of-interest rules, greater transparency, improved oversight, agency worker training requirements, and safe staffing standards.  This bill has the support of SEIU1199.

HD3662 An Act strengthening the Attorney General’s tools to protect nursing home residents and other patients from abuse and neglect

This bill strengthens the civil enforcement tools used by the Attorney General’s Office to address abuse and neglect of elderly and disabled patients, whether they are cared for at home or in nursing homes. The bill increases the civil penalties that the office can seek for the mistreatment, abuse or neglect of nursing home residents or other covered patients. It also increases the time in which the Attorney General can bring a civil suit from two years to four years.  The bill is co-sponsored with Attorney General Campbell.

HD3567 An Act to establish a COVID-19 Remembrance Day

The bill would establish an annual COVID-19 Remembrance Day on March 10th to honor all who died or were stricken and their families from COVID-19.

Libraries

HD3425 An Act empowering library access to electronic books and digital audiobooks

This bill will ensure that contracts between publishers and libraries for the use of eBooks and digital audiobooks include fair pricing and equitable terms so that libraries can fully meet their standard access and preservation missions.