Jehlen Votes to Move Free Birth Control, Healthcare, and Bilingual Ed Bills Forward

BOSTON – Senator Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville) joined her Senate colleagues in successfully passing several pieces of legislation, including bills to protect co-pay free birth control, address healthcare cost-containment, and ensure that students in the commonwealth have access to bilingual education.

This week the Senate voted to enact the ACCESS bill, sending it to Governor Baker’s desk for his signature. The bill, H.4009, expands upon the 2006 Massachusetts contraceptive-coverage mandate, as well as the co-pay free contraceptive-coverage provisions enacted under the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

“Women have a fundamental right to healthcare, and this bill will ensure women in Massachusetts can access birth control regardless of their employment status or attacks from the federal government,” said Senator Jehlen.

Congress’ repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the Trump Administration’s contraceptive-coverage rollback in early October pushed legislators to take quick action on this issue. The ACCESS bill includes an emergency preamble so that these changes are effective immediately, and health plans have six months to comply with the new mandates. The legislation mandates that more options, like IUDs, be covered co-pay free and allows women to purchase full-year supplies of their medication in just one pharmacy visit.

The ACCESS bill builds upon additional reforms to our healthcare system passed by the Senate last Thursday. The HEALTH Act, S.2202, focuses on both short and long term goals on how to lower healthcare costs, improve outcomes, and maintain access. Senator Jehlen’s amendment to require the Center for Health Information and Analysis to examine cost trends and financial performance among nursing facilities was successfully passed and included in the final bill. The study would answer important questions about what factors are driving increasing costs at nursing facilities.

The HEALTH Act encompasses the whole system from Medicaid to the commercial market, addresses price variation, increases price transparency for consumers, leverages better federal funding opportunities, and expands scope of practice for many practitioners including dental therapists, optometrists, podiatrists, and nurse anesthetists. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The Senate also voted to enact the LOOK bill, H.4032, which expands on the current mandate requiring schools to use Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) as the default English learner program model by giving schools the flexibility to establish programs based on the diverse needs of their students. Under this legislation, school districts can maintain current SEI programming or choose to implement an alternative instructional program that meets federal and state standards.

“In an increasingly global and multilingual world, it is important that our students have proficiency in more than one language. This bill will not only encourage children to be successful in learning English, but also to be fluent in at least two languages,” said Senator Jehlen.

Recognizing bilingualism and biliteracy as valuable strengths for students in a 21st century world, this legislation establishes a state Seal of Biliteracy. The seal will be awarded by participating school districts to students who have attained a high level of proficiency in English, and one or more foreign languages. This bill also moves to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

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