Massachusetts House passes legislation easing transition to Affordable Care Act

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June 21, 2013

By Nick Katers

Massachusetts

BOSTON, Massachusetts: The House of Representatives voted 118-32 on Wednesday to change state health care laws ahead of implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act in January 2014. House Bill 3452 adjusts state laws to allow parents to keep their children on family insurance plans until age 26. The bill also prohibits insurance companies working in the state from rejecting coverage based on pre-existing health conditions. The Senate Ways and Means Committee will now begin discussion of the bill.[1][2]

Supporters voted to harmonize state law with the Affordable Care Act in part due to potential Medicaid funds totaling $115 million. “We want to make sure that we’re not missing out on anything that could really benefit everyone in Massachusetts,” said Representative Brian Ashe (D).[1] Representative Steven Walsh (D) answered critics concerned about federal overreach in the state’s health care system, stating that “today’s vote doesn’t repeal anything we did in 2006 and doesn’t repeal anything we did in 2012.”[3]

A main source of contention for opponents of H.3452 was the state’s past success in ensuring health coverage for most residents. “We went through a lot of pains, trials and tribulations but we did it, and now the federal government is rolling in and rolling over us and saying we have to follow their rules,” argued Representative Fred Barrows (R).[3] Representative George Peterson (R) suggested that opponents should challenge implementation in court even if H.3452 is approved by the Senate. “If we are the model, we should be able to stand alone and say we’re already doing it,” said Peterson.[3]

A series of amendments proposed by Representative Daniel Winslow (R) were overwhelmingly rejected by the House. Winslow’s amendment to prohibit the state from using funds to implement the federal health law only received 35 votes. An amendment that would ask the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court for a ruling on whether the Affordable Care Act could supplant existing state laws was backed by only 32 legislators. “This body should not cede any of its sovereignty, especially to this Congress,” argued Winslow during debate.[3]


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