Kocot’s ‘detailed outline’ will inform House health care bill

  • The State House in Boston. recorder file photo

State House News Service
Wednesday, March 07, 2018

The late Rep. Peter Kocot left a “detailed outline” of major health care legislation that will inform the work of Massachusetts House leaders, who now plan to debate the still-developing bill sometime after their late-April House budget deliberations.

The new timeline virtually assures that health care legislation, if it passes at all this session, will be among the major bills that will compete for the attention of lawmakers in the weeks and days before formal sessions are scheduled to end this year on July 31.

In response to News Service questions about the House’s path forward on health care in the wake of Kocot’s death last month, House Speaker Robert DeLeo said committee vice chairman Rep. Jeff Roy, an attorney from Franklin, will handle the day-to-day work of the Health Care Financing Committee, which Kocot had co-chaired.

It’s unclear whether Roy will be formally promoted to chairman, which would boost his annual stipend, on top of his salary, from $15,000 to $30,000.

According to his bio, Roy has focused his lengthy legal career on cases involving people injured at home, work, or play.

House Majority Leader Ron Mariano, a Quincy Democrat with experience in health care policy matters, will lead floor debate on the issue, DeLeo said.

“It is our goal to take up the legislation after the budget,” DeLeo said in a statement, saying the bill “to advance Chairman Kocot’s work” will be crafted by “House leadership” working with the Health Care Financing Committee and Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez and the House Ways and Means Committee that he chairs.

Sanchez served as co-chair of a special commission that studied price variation among health care providers, and was co-chair of the Health Care Financing Committee until DeLeo tapped him for the Ways and Means post last July.

“At the time of his passing Chairman Kocot had drafted a detailed outline of the House’s healthcare bill,” DeLeo said. “I had the opportunity to discuss the draft legislation with him frequently over the past few months. His work was incredibly thoughtful and thorough.”

With the state budget in a bind, sagging under the weight of growing MassHealth costs, Gov. Charlie Baker last summer tried to prod the Legislature to pass proposals aimed at reining in health care costs in the public and private sector.

The Democrat-controlled Legislature quickly rejected the governor’s proposals but promised to come up with alternatives. Since then, the state budget pinch has eased and the ideas percolating in the Legislature have veered away from the areas that Baker honed in on.

The Senate last November passed sweeping health care legislation, dubbed An Act Furthering Health Empowerment and Affordability by Leveraging Transformative Health Care, a bill that senators say will “lower costs, improve outcomes, and maintain access.”

Among the bill’s areas of focus are proposals designed to reduce emergency room visits by expanding access to behavioral health and embracing telemedicine and urgent care centers. To address provider price variation, the bill implements a price floor and requires hospitals to face fines for exceeding a spending benchmark. The Senate bill also expanded the scope of practice for dental therapists, optometrists, podiatrists, and nurse anesthetists.