FRAMINGHAM – Earlier this summer, the state legislature failed to pass a health care reform bill for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Massachusetts is one of 14 states without a tele-health parity law for private insurance coverage, a policy that allows remote medical services to be covered as like in-person care.
Quality medical care is important as Framingham continues to see is senior population increase.
Framingham is home to MetroWest Medical Center, and Framingham Union Hospital. But the leadership at the hospital has not been stable in the last couple of years. Last year, the CEO and CFO resigned.
This month, the new CEO, who has been here less than a year, left.
The Center is the largest employer in downtown Framingham, and is needed as an economic engine for that area.
Dealing with health care coverage and supporting local hospitals outside of Boston will be issues for the next state representative in Framingham.
On Tuesday, September 4, the day after Labor Day, Framingham voters will select one Republican, one Democrat, and possibly one Libertarian to appear on the November ballot.
Voters in Precincts (not City Districts) 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 15 will see no names on any of those three ballots however.
With the death of Rep. Walsh in May there was not time for any candidate to gather signatures and appear on the ballot.
Thus, every candidate that wants the 6th Middlesex state representative seat must run a write-in campaign.
There are five candidates who have announced write-in campaigns – four Democrats and one Republican.
The Democrats are Mary Kate Feeney, Mike Gatlin, Maria Robinson, and Mark Tilden. The Republican is Tom Blandford.
The individuals who receives the most votes in any party ballot (minimum of 150 votes) will appear on the November ballot.
In Framingham, as in the state, the majority of registered voters are unenrolled, which means they have no party affiliation. Unenrolled voters may choose a Democratic, Republican, or Libertarian ballot on Tuesday, Sept 4 and write in the candidate of their choice. The announced Democratic candidates are encouraging voters to pull a Democratic ballot and write their name, and the Republican candidate is encouraging unenrolled voters to pull a Republican ballot and write his name.
Source asked the write-in state representative candidates a series of questions, earlier this month. Each day this week and last week, the answers to the questions are being published to help voters make a choice.
Today’s question — – The state legislature did not pass a health care reform bill in the last session. Massachusetts is one of 14 states without a tele-health parity law for private insurance coverage, a policy that allows remote medical services to be covered as like in-person care. Do you support tele-health? What else would you like to see in a health care reform bill?
TILDEN: I support tele-health and would act to expand it to nurse practitioners.
Prescription drug relief for seniors.
GATLIN: I do support tele-health parity. I believe it is an innovative way of reducing health care costs.
One factor in the increase in health care costs is evidenced by the fact that a procedure performed in a suburban hospital costs significantly more in many of Boston’s teaching hospitals even though the outcomes are no different. The cost disparity between hospitals is a significant factor in the high cost of healthcare which strains both individual budgets and the budgets of state and municipal government.
FEENEY: There were several pieces of critical legislation that did not pass this most recent session, like The Honorable Peter V. Kocot Act to Enhance Access to High Quality Affordable Transparent Healthcare in the Commonwealth (H.4617).
This bill contained several health care reforms and focused on supporting community hospitals and health centers to ensure all residents of the Commonwealth retain access to high quality health care.
As I stated in my response on my first piece of legislation, community hospitals are a critical part of our state, providing quality care to our residents. It is important, as legislators, we work to ensure quality health care remains affordable for all.
Framingham Union Hospital, part of the MetroWest Medical Center, is not only our community hospital, but the largest employer in Framingham. The Kocot Act included funding for Framingham Union. Any health care reform bills in the next session should include funding for these hospitals so they can maintain their level of care.
I support tele-health services, which make a wider range of services and providers available to residents. This is helpful for residents who cannot travel for consultations and care. Tele-health is helpful with mental health care, where individuals are increasingly using online tools to speak to doctors, therapists and psychologists to address their mental health needs. This is the future of medicine and it should be encouraged.
BLANDFORD: I would like the people of Massachusetts to have more say on this issue remembering that one shoe doesn’t fit all sizes.
This is extremely important to me and there must be a suitable health care reform bill within the next two years while I am State Representative.
ROBINSON: Tele-health is incredibly important to residents in the state that do not drive or have limited mobility, those that are confined to their homes, and those that live in rural parts of the state where doctors are located tens of miles away. I support tele-health because it can provide healthcare to those for whom in-person visits are difficult or nearly impossible.
According to GoFundMe, the crowd-funding website, 1/3 of its requests are for paying off massive medical bills. Instead of our government prioritizing health care for all of its residents, we are turning to the generous nature of others to pay the bills.
We as a state government need to seriously consider how we can provide a single-payer, public health care option that would provide truly affordable health care to all; this could include initial steps such as allowing the public to buy into MassHealth.
We also need to increase transparency around prescription drug pricing; I have heard from residents in Framingham who find that they can purchase their prescriptions for less without insurance, but this information was never disclosed to them. Finally, we need to increase funding for community hospitals, many of whom provide vital primary care to patients but continue to lose funding year after year.
In addition, in its comprehensive health care reform, the legislature included a bill co-sponsored by Framingham’s Jack Lewis that would allow more seniors to qualify for Medicare Savings Programs. Under these programs, the state helps senior citizens with low incomes to pay the Medicare Part B premium and qualify for the Medicare Part D Extra Help program. I would like to see this legislation passed as part of a larger health care bill and would be honored to be part of the caucus to see these reforms come to fruition
Editor’s Note: The candidates were given 500 words or less for a response. The responses are published below, as received, unless they went over 500 words, and then the news site cut the answer at the sentence closest to 500 words.