Supporting the AG; Wellness; Telemed; SIFs, and more ...

MHA: Purdue Pharma Filing “Unconscionable and Unjust”

 MHA joined Attorney General Maura Healey last week in urging the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York to reject Purdue Pharma’s proposed opioid crisis settlement and its request for a nationwide injunction that would stop all lawsuits against the company and the Sackler family.
“Purdue Pharma’s well-documented deception relating to opioids and the nationwide tragedy that followed its actions requires a full accounting of its responsibility,” MHA President & CEO Steve Walsh wrote in the letter to Judge Robert Drain. “The court should not permit Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers to escape their responsibilities with incomplete and inadequate restitution, especially while patients continue to suffer from the company’s duplicity, and others, including the hospital community, continue to expend time, effort, and resources to resolve the devastation left in Purdue Pharma’s wake.”
AG Healey and 24 other attorneys general across the U.S. are opposing Purdue Pharma’s motion. Governor Charlie Baker, along with healthcare and patient advocates, among others, also wrote letters in support of the AGs.
Walsh cited the leading efforts of Massachusetts hospitals to create guidelines and new medical protocols for the treatment of substance use disorder (SUD), as well as operational changes, standards about the release of SUD information to the courts, and many other initiatives required by the opioid scourge that has resulted in thousands of deaths in Massachusetts and across the country.
“Absolving the Sackler family and its company of responsibility through bankruptcy protection would not be in the public interest,” Walsh wrote. “In fact, letting the architects of the problem walk away relatively unscathed while patients and the public health community continue to flounder in the rubble of their opioid scheme would be unconscionable and unjust.”

Federal Court Says Oft-Cited Federal Law Doesn’t Apply to SIFs

A U.S. District Court judge in Pennsylvania last week ruled that a federal law passed in 1986 to shut down “crack houses” does not apply to those seeking to operate safe injection facilities (SIFs), also known as safe consumption sites. The ruling is important because opponents of proposed legislation in Massachusetts to create the consumption facilities have argued that the federal law precludes the state from moving forward on the issue. In fact, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling wrote a February 2019 op-ed in the Boston Globe saying, in effect, don’t even think of operating a SIF because he’d shut it down.
Boiled down to its basic elements, the legal issue turned on language in the 1986 Controlled Substance Act that makes it unlawful for any person to “manage or control any place” where controlled substances are used. Judge Gerald Austin McHugh ruled that if you manage or control a crack house, then you are violating the law, as Congress intended. But the 1986 law does not apply to safe injection facilities – locations where people can inject illicit drugs under the supervision of trained staff – because, he wrote, “Safe injection sites were not considered by Congress and could not have been, because their use as a possible harm reduction strategy among opioid users had not yet entered public discourse.”
What happens next is unclear. Most expect the decision to be appealed. And the proposed SIF facility in Philadelphia that was at the center of the U.S. District Court case still faces local hurdles before getting licensed, located, and opened. And the day after the ruling, U.S. Attorney Lelling doubled down on his February stance, saying in a press release last Thursday that his office “respectfully disagrees” with the district court judge and that “efforts to open injection facilities, including here in Massachusetts, will be met with federal enforcement.”

Telemedicine Gets a Hearing at the State House

Caregivers and patients spoke at a hearing before the Joint Committee on Financial Services last Tuesday, asking the legislature to pass a law expanding access to telemed services. The legislation, has gained widespread support from legislators interested in providing patients with easier access to medical care and improved outcomes for chronic illnesses. The main opposition has come from insurance companies that object to covering telemedicine services on par with in-person visits. One panel that testified included, Liz Asai, CEO and co-founder of 3Derm Systems, Inc.; Jenny Chiang, M.D., medical director, MetroWest Healthcare Alliance; and Craig Best, M.D., president & CEO, Tufts Medical Center Physicians Organization. 

Worksite Wellness Council Announces Employer Award Winners

The Worksite Wellness Council of Massachusetts has announced the winners of its annual WorkWell Massachusetts Awards, recognizing employers that show outstanding performance in worksite health promotion, which includes programs to address workers’ physical and mental health, social connectedness, community involvement, and financial security.
The application process for the awards asked employers to complete the HERO Health and Well-Being Best Practices Scorecard in Collaboration with Mercer to assess an organization's overall wellness programming. A supplemental application requested additional details on strategic planning, organizational support, program design and implementation, participant engagement, and measurement/evaluation process. A peer review committee of independent industry experts evaluated all applications and provided a free consultative assessment of the programs
The following MHA members are 2019 WorkWell Massachusetts Award winners:
Gold: Cambridge Health Alliance, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Signature Healthcare.
Silver: Berkshire Health Systems, Boston Medical Center, and UMass Memorial Health Care
Community leader (Those that lead activities that have a profound effect on the health and wellness of a community): Boston Medical Center
More information is available at WWCMA WorkWell MA. Information on the application process for the 2020 WorkWell Massachusetts Award Program will be available in the early spring or can be requested by e-mailing awards@wwcma.org.

Get Quick, Free Advice to Help Your SUD Patients

The Massachusetts Consultation Service for the Treatment of Addiction and Pain (MCSTAP), created through last year’s opioid law (Chapter 208), allows providers to call a number and have a consultant give advice on safe prescribing and managing care for patients with chronic pain and/or substance use disorder (SUD). The Grayken Center for Addiction at Boston Medical Center provides the medical leadership of MCSTAP, but MCSTAP’s physician consultants are experts from healthcare systems around the state. Since word first went out to hospitals and physicians about the service earlier this year, MCSTAP has been busy fielding calls. But it wants providers to know – physician practices, emergency departments, and health centers, among others – that it has the bandwidth to provide quick, free help. The phone number – which is for providers only and not the public – is 1-833-724-6783 (1-833-PAIN-SUD), and is available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
MCSTAP now has print brochures and small posters that can be hung in exam rooms. If you’d like samples or have any questions about MCSTAP, contact MCSTAP Administrative Director Amy Rosenstein at Amy.Rosenstein@beaconhealthoptions.com.

President Unveils Executive Order to Counter “Medicare for All”

President Trump last Thursday unveiled an executive order entitled “Protecting and Improving Medicare for Our Nation’s Seniors,” which is seen as a rebuttal to “Medicare for All” legislation and includes broad directives to federal agencies about expanding the private Medicare Advantage part of the federal program. 
A broad-brushed look at the plan shows the administration changing regulations to encourage Medicare Advantage benefit structures and plan designs; adjusting network adequacy requirements for Medicare Advantage plans to increase access to telehealth and other technologies; reducing physician administrative burden by eliminating certain billing requirements, conditions of participation, and supervision requirements, among other changes; ensuring Medicare payment and policies encourage competition and different sites for patients to access care; and cracking down on fraud and waste.
The president announced his plan at a rally in Florida, telling the crowd of mostly senior citizens, “I will never allow these politicians to steal your health care and give it away to illegal aliens.”

Excellence in the Emergency Department

Friday, October 18; 9 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
MHA Conference Center, Burlington, Mass.

For many patients, the emergency department (ED) sets the tone for the entire patient experience. By implementing proven, evidence-based tools and techniques, leaders can create an ED where employees and physicians want to work and patients want to receive care. That's true whether an ED is big or small, inner-city or rural, or in a teaching or community hospital. At this conference, we’ll hear from nationally recognized experts Dan Smith, M.D., and Stephanie Baker, R.N., from the Studer Group on leading practices from healthcare organizations that are doing things differently in the ED and seeing positive outcomes as a result. We’ll look at ways to tackle boarding, boost productivity, and optimize clinical documentation, and explore how to leverage leadership and improve training and development of clinicians and staff. As an added bonus, Attorney Lawrence Vernaglia, a partner at Foley & Lardner, will provide an update on the recent Boston Municipal Court ruling on Section 12(a) cases involving psychiatric patients in the ED. Click here for more details and registration info.

John LoDico, Editor