Last week, the Massachusetts House of Representatives voted 143-14 to approve its version of the FY2021 budget. Included in Consolidated Amendment “B” is language to extend the sunset on copay assistance to 2023. Inclusion of this sunset in the final FY2021 budget is subject to the Senate’s action and a potential conference committee. Regarding the next steps in the budgetary process, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means released their FY2021 budget on Thursday and Senator Boncore filed an amendment (Amendment #193) to extend the copay assistance sunset to 2023.
Additionally, the MBTA released proposed service cuts last Monday in response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on ridership and revenue. Proposed cuts include: reduce the T’s peak frequency by 20% and reduce off-peak frequency by an additional 20% on all lines; non-essential bus routes will operate 20-30% less frequently; 10 bus routes will be consolidated or restructured; 25 bus routes will be eliminated; the commuter rail will have no evening service after 9pm or weekend service; six commuter rail stations will be closed; commuter rail peak service will be reduced from 505 trains to 430 trains; and all ferry service will be stopped.
In Federal news, federal health officials reached an agreement with pharmacies across the United States on Thursday to distribute COVID-19 vaccines for free once they are approved and available. The agreement covers 3 in 5 pharmacies in all 50 states and in U.S. territories and ultimately seeks to make receiving a COVID-19 vaccine similar to a flu shot.
On Monday, Massachusetts-headquartered Moderna announced its COVID-19 vaccine is proving “highly effective” in its ongoing clinical trial. Preliminary data shows its vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective.
Also on Monday, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey hosted a “discussion of health equity priorities, reflections from frontline providers and health equity leaders across Massachusetts, and a presentation from the AG’s Office summarizing recommendations contained in a new report on racial justice and equity in health. And on Wednesday, the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission Board will meet to review updated data on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on healthcare spending and costs and discuss the agency’s drug pricing review process.
Additionally, the Massachusetts State Senate will begin debate over its version of the FY2021 on Tuesday.
MassBio continues its Policymakers Live series this week with a virtual briefing with Representative Hannah Kane, a steadfast advocate for the rare disease community, that was held on Monday, and a briefing with Senator Joan Lovely, Assistant Majority Leader of the Massachusetts State Senate on Friday. Senator Lovely is the Senate Chair of the Ellen Story Commission on Postpartum Depression and is a member of the Special Senate Committee on Opioid Addiction Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Options. Register for the event here.