By Bob Katzen
“We are committed to creating a response to this pandemic that protects all residents of Massachusetts while addressing treatment and outcome disparities among communities of color,” said House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka in a joint statement in mid-April. They said that they agree with lawmakers who do not believe that the Baker administration’s guidance on COVID-19 crisis care standards adequately accounts for health care disparities among communities of color.
Fast forward to last week and instead of a joint statement the pair issued dueling press releases and statements after each branch approved a different version of the legislation addressing these issues.
“The House is committed to helping the populations that have proven to be most vulnerable during this public health emergency,” said DeLeo in a press release. “With the data clearly demonstrating that individuals in soldiers’ homes, senior housing communities, and other long-term care settings are more at risk, it is disappointing that the Senate removed many of the infection case and mortality rate data collection requirements that were key elements of the House bill.”
“The Senate was surprised to hear through the press that the House was unhappy about our data collection and diversity task force bill,” wrote Spilka in an e-mail to the State House News Service. “To be clear, the Senate bill included every provision in the original House bill and added some additional important protections and reporting requirements. We were dismayed to see that the House, in fact, removed reporting requirements for long-term care facilities from the bill they passed today, although they included it in their original diversity and data collection bill.”