The Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate passed a bill that would expand vote-by-mail and establish early voting before the primary and general elections. As drafted, the bill directs Secretary of State William Galvin to send every registered voter, by July 15, an application to request a mail-in ballot for the primary on September 1.
In Federal news, Congress unanimously voted to officially pass S. 4116 which extends the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) through August 8. Additionally, the FDA issued new guidance on Tuesday that outlines the conditions that must be met for a COVID-19 vaccine to be approved. Under this guidance, any vaccine must be at least 50% more effective than a placebo in preventing the disease. The FDA also stated that to receive approval or emergency-use authorization, the drug maker must clearly demonstrate proof of the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness in a clinical study.
On Monday, Massachusetts begins Phase 3 of its reopening plan, which allows gyms, museums, aquariums, casino floors, libraries, and movie theaters, among several other businesses to reopen. These businesses can open with restrictions across Massachusetts, with the exception of Boston which will begin Phase 3 on July 13. Under Phase 3, indoor gatherings will be capped at eight people per 1,000 square feet, with a maximum of 25, and outdoor gatherings will be limited to 25% of permitted capacity with a maximum of 100. Additionally, professional sports teams are allowed to host games without fans.
Additionally, the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission (HPC) released its Prescription Drug Coupon Study on the use and impact of prescription drug coupons, discounts, and other product vouchers on pharmaceutical spending and health care costs, pursuant to Chapter 363 of the Acts of 2018. The full study can be found, here.
Among its findings, the study notes: “Continued growth in high deductible plan enrollment, coupled with increasing drug prices, suggests that patient affordability challenges will only increase. Eliminating the availability of coupons at this time – without substantial protections for patient affordability – would likely create serious challenges for many patients in the Commonwealth.” (page 4). The study does not contain recommendations to the Legislature, but does contain policy suggestions for public reporting and oversight, payer and employer strategies to support high value drug use, prescriber education, and strategies to address high drug prices.