The United States Senate confirmed Xavier Becerra as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Thursday in a 50-49 vote. With this confirmation, Becerra, California’s Attorney General, will be the first Latino to hold this position.
In Massachusetts last week, Governor Baker provided an update on when the remaining Massachusetts population will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination. The timeline is as follows: March 22nd: residents 60+ and certain workers; April 5th: residents 55+ and residents with one certain medical condition; and April 19th: general public aged 16+. Included in the population eligible beginning March 22nd are two groups relevant for the life sciences – medical supply chain workers and vaccine development workers. The full timeline is available at mass.gov/COVIDVaccinePhases.
Also last week, the Massachusetts Senate voted 40-0 to pass House Bill 90, which creates a tax credit for low-income households, authorizes emergency COVID-19 paid sick leave, exempts Paycheck Protection Program loans received in 2020 from taxes and implements Governor Baker’s preferred rate schedule for increased business payments into the unemployment insurance trust fund, imposing smaller increases in unemployment taxes businesses pay in 2021 and 2022. The bill is currently awaiting final enactment in both branches of the Legislature and then will be sent to the Governor.
On Tuesday at 10 am, the U.S. Senate HELP Primary Health and Retirement Security Subcommittee holds a hearing examining drug prices entitled, “Why Does the US Pay the Highest Prices in the World for Prescription Drugs?” And on Monday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as the U.S. Secretary of Labor. City Council President Kim Janey will serve as acting mayor for the remainder of 2021 and will be the first woman or person of color to hold the position.
Massachusetts’ Joint Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing on Monday morning to review Governor Baker’s fiscal year 2022 budget recommendations. This hearing focused on the environmental, energy, and transportation aspects of the budget. And on Tuesday, the Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management holds an oversight hearing on the state’s vaccine rollout and structure and planning around emergency response.
On Thursday, Massachusetts’ Health Policy Commission (HPC) meets to consider modifying the healthcare cost growth benchmark for 2022. The HPC will also hear a presentation on state spending and findings from the Center for Health Information and Analysis’s (CHIA) annual report
Beginning Monday, March 22. Massachusetts will transition to Step 1 Phase IV of the state’s reopening plan. Under this phase, effective Monday, March 22, the Massachusetts Travel Order will be replaced with a Travel Advisory. The new travel advisory removes the “mandate” for a 10-day quarantine or testing for out-of-state travel, however it “encourages” individuals entering Massachusetts, including returning residents, to do so if they have been out of the state for 24 hours or more. Additionally, gathering limits for event venues and in public settings will increase to 100 people indoors and 150 people outdoors.