SB499/HB536, HB502 Contraceptive Coverage, Interpreter Services

Joint Committee on Financial Services

The Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association (MHA), on behalf of its member hospitals, health systems, physician organizations, and allied healthcare providers, appreciates this opportunity to offer its support for legislation that would require health insurance companies to cover contraceptives without co-pays and to reimburse for competent interpreter services.

MHA supports SB499/HB536 which seeks to guarantee women access to preventive health care, including contraception coverage, without co-pays. The elimination of out-of-pocket costs has allowed women, regardless of their economic status, to afford basic healthcare, including contraceptives that work best for them. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), American women have experienced the single biggest advancement in healthcare access in a generation. Right now, more than 55 million women in the United States, including 1.4 million women in Massachusetts, have access to preventive services with zero cost sharing. This vital access is under serious threat on the federal level. SB499/HB536 would protect and expand access to contraceptives by requiring insurers in Massachusetts to cover all FDA-approved contraceptive methods without cost-sharing, including coverage of over-the-counter contraceptives without a prescription.

MHA strongly supports HB502, which requires MassHealth, its contractors, and all private insurers to adequately compensate hospitals for the costs of providing interpreter services. The commonwealth’s interpreter services law (Chapter 66 of the Acts of 2000) required the state to reimburse hospitals for interpreter services related to care provided in emergency departments and behavioral health units. However, the reimbursement level was not set to pay for the interpreter services as a separate service. The provision of appropriate interpreter services is essential to the delivery of timely and medically necessary care. Patients in these settings can simultaneously experience several medical and psychological conditions; the added difficulty of communicating to these patients heightens the potential complications that may arise. Also, the lack of available medically certified interpreters who can assist in these settings results in hospitals having to pay higher rates – higher than the national or state average for payment—just to access this important resource. HB502 helps ensure necessary support for this critical element of care by ensuring that hospitals are paid for the actual interpreter service as a separate and distinct service. This important bill will help facilitate the ability of hospitals to best deliver safe and effective care to all patients.

Thank you for the opportunity to offer testimony on these important matters. If you have any questions, or require further information, please contact Michael Sroczynski, MHA’s Vice President of Government Advocacy, at (781) 262-6055 or msroczynski@mhalink.org.