State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier June 2012
Berkshires to Beacon Hill Keeping track of your State Representative
Mayor Bianchi, Rep. Farley-Bouvier, Sen. Downing & Rep. Mark honoring World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15th
Seniors’ Budget Victories: Elder Nutrition funded, COA increased to $6.42 Both the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate have passed 2013 budgets restoring funding for key elder services programs. In the House budget, Councils on Aging received an increase of $474,000 bringing funding per senior up from $6.05 to $6.42. Funding for the Elder Nutrition Program was fully restored as the Governor’s proposed $1.5 million cut was rejected by both the House and Senate.
“Massachusetts seniors have won in this budget,” said Pittsfield’s Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier, who sits on the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs. “I am proud to be part of a process that has taken a stand to protect seniors during such a tough budget season.” The Rep. explained, “We have worked hard to maintain services for seniors. Meals-On-Wheels will not be cut back, and more seniors will be able to remain in their homes and com-
munities thanks to extra funding for enhanced home care services.” Under the House proposal, the Enhanced Community Options Program will receive a $2 million increase from 2012 to continue serving elders who live at home, yet need a higher level of services than is usually provided to remain there safely. Elder protective services, a program that prevents abuse, neglect, and financial misconduct targeted at seniors, also saw a significant increase of $1 million.
The personal needs allowance, which goes to elders in nursing homes, will continue at $72.80 per month. “It's very important that seniors be able to keep this small amount for personal needs like dental services, newspapers, and toiletries,” said Rep. Farley-Bouvier. “It does not take care of every need, but is a crucial service.” The budget process wraps up in late June when Gov. Patrick signs the final version into law.
Opposition to Corporate Spending in Elections Grows The Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision overturned key federal campaign finance reform regulations. As a result, spending in the 2010 election cycle came in at a record-breaking $4 billion, and in 2012 there's nowhere to go but up—which means that legislators will be spending more time
fundraising, less time connecting with the people they represent, and be increasingly beholden to whichever deeppocketed corporations back their campaigns. On May 10, local legislators gathered with Berkshire Environmental Action Team, Free Speech for People, and several
other organizations at Barrington Stage Co. to host a discussion about actions that can be taken at the local and state levels to combat the decision’s effects. Nearly 150 local residents joined in, pledging to raise awareness of the issue and gather signatures in support of a local resolution urging Congress to over-
Panelists John Bonifaz of Free Speech for People, Pam Wilmot of Common Cause MA, and Mark Hayes of Public Citizen.
turn the Court’s decision via a constitutional amendment. Similar resolutions have already been passed in Williamstown and Great Barrington.
Berkshires to Beacon Hill
Massachusetts House of Representatives Passes Health Care Reform Bill A recent poll identified costs as Mass residents’ top health care concern, far outpacing other concerns like accessibility and quality of care. The health care cost containment bill passed by the House of Representatives on June 5 attempts to address this issue by requiring health costs to grow more slowly than the overall gross state product. The House predicts savings of $160 billion over 15 years and aims to remodel the health care payment system. Under the House bill, community hospitals would be able to apply for grants from the new Distressed Hospital Fund. That fund will be tasked with redistributing a nearly $200 million, one-time assessment on large providers and insurers. “This is an effective way for us to help our local hospitals, many of which are struggling to stay afloat,” said Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier. The Representative also praised efforts to encourage high quality practitioners to work in Western Massachusetts. “We can offer talented health care providers great quali-
“We can offer talented health care providers great quality of life, and this bill’s loan forgiveness program will help us add the financial incentive a primary care physician may need to relocate here in the Berkshires.”
ty of life, and this bill’s loan forgiveness program will help us add the financial incentive a primary care physician may need to relocate here in the Berkshires.” The House bill includes a commitment to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates, take a more collaborative approach toward cutting costs, and institute new disclosure and transparency requirements. These requirements will ensure that providers, upon the request of a patient, disclose their charges and allowed amount for a proposed admission, procedure, or service. The Department of Public Health will also be required to report quality information pertaining to
healthcare-associated infections, which have become a serious risk to seniors who receive services in hospitals and long term care facilities. To help administer these changes and streamline government oversight, the bill consolidates several divisions into one new agency that will be known as the Division of Health Care Cost and Quality. The bill was crafted over a period of 18 months and has won broad support. SEIU Local 1199, one of the east coast’s largest unions, praised legislators for “including the voices of frontline caregivers,” while the MA Nurses Association supported the bill’s prohibition of mandatory overtime as a boon to patient safety. A 6-member committee is currently working to reconcile this bill with the Senate’s version of health payment reform, which would save $150 billion and allow the industry to slightly outpace the state economy for the first few years. A compromise will be reached before the end of the legislative session on July 31.
Tricia works at the Meals-On-Wheels kitchen in Lanesborough in April. Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier 33 Dunham Mall Pittsfield, MA 01201
Second edition of Massachusetts State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier's tri-annual newsletter.