Compromise Health Bill Aimed at Children, Young Adults on Way to Baker’s Desk

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The Massachusetts House and Senate quickly approved a compromise bill yesterday aimed at improving health care for children and young adults.

The House voted 154-0 Tuesday to advance a version of the bill that a six-member conference committee agreed to and filed Monday. The Senate approved the compromise on a voice vote and the bill appears on its way to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk todday.

The legislation would extend MassHealth coverage until age 26 for young adults formerly in Department of Children and Families’ custody, require insurers to maintain accurate online provider directories and create several commissions to study other youth-related health topics.

Chief House negotiator Rep. Jennifer Benson said on the House floor, “This bill helps bridge the gap between our children and mental health services; it makes it easier for parents to access these services for their children and it makes sure they will have the information they need to make informed decisions.”

Under the bill, the state will launch a pilot program creating three “regional childhood behavioral health centers of excellence” to improve accessibility to behavioral health resources and conduct an analysis of the challenges children with medical complexities face accessing insurance coverage and services.

The bill also calls for a new commission to examine the pediatric workforce and recommend strategies for increasing the pipeline of pediatric providers and expanding access to practicing providers, according to a bill summary, and creates another commission to review the school-based health center program.

Sen. Cindy Friedman, the Senate’s lead negotiator on the health conference committee, said she has “great confidence” that the Senate will wrap up its work on the topic by the end of the final formal session of 2019 on Wednesday.

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