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Public Health in Massachusetts

The Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School has a special focus on infectious disease and access to health care services that promote public health in Massachusetts.

CHLPI publishes a variety of factsheets and other resources to help health care providers, community-based organizations, and the general public navigate coverage for infectious disease prevention, care, and treatment.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates

The following updates highlight certain steps taken by Massachusetts officials to respond to COVID-19. The updates are not exhaustive and the policy landscape is evolving rapidly. For more information, please review specific department websites.

Good News on Public Charge – Trump Administration Rule Permanently Blocked Nationwide!

As of March 9, 2021, the Biden Administration told the Supreme Court that it would not defend the Trump Administration public charge rule in lawsuits against the rule. Federal courts then dismissed the pending cases, meaning that a court order from November 2020 blocking the Trump rule is now the final decision.

What this means: MassHealth, SNAP (Food Stamps), and housing benefits (like Section 8 and public housing) DO NOT COUNT for public charge anymore FOR ANYONE. Any COVID-19 treatment or preventive services also DOES NOT COUNT for public charge.

The Biden Administration announced that the government will now use the policy on public charge that was used before the Trump rule was created. Under this policy, the ONLY benefits that count as a factor in public charge determination are income maintenance cash benefits (like SSI/SSDI, TANF, and EAEDC) and long-term care (nursing homes) paid for by MassHealth.

Public charge does not apply at all to some categories of immigrants, including refugees; asylees; people who are survivors of domestic violence, trafficking, or other serious crimes; special immigrant juveniles; and some people paroled into the U.S. For more information, visit the Protecting Immigrant Families campaign website, and see their helpful Fact Sheet.

More information coming soon!

Resources

Keeping Health Information Private: the PATCH Act

For people who are covered under someone else’s health insurance plan, a Massachusetts law called the PATCH Act (for Protecting Access To Confidential Healthcare) may help keep information about health services they receive private. The resource below provides more information about the PATCH Act and how it works, as well as a sample script that can be used for contacting health insurance companies.

At a Glance Guides

These tools provide an overview of coverage for key services in Massachusetts in order to give health care providers quick access to basic coverage information and help inform discussions with patients.

Insurance and Preventive Health Care Services in Massachusetts

Many health insurance plans must cover the entire cost of certain preventive health care services and cannot impose a financial contribution (e.g., a co-payment or other “out-of-pocket” payment) on patients. These factsheets provide an overview of coverage for specific preventive services.

FAQ: Prior Authorization for Hepatitis C Virus Treatment

CHLPI answers common questions about prior authorization requirements for hepatitis C virus treatment in the Massachusetts Medicaid program and dispels myths that create barriers to care.

Other

CHLPI is also active in other public health and health care initiatives in Massachusetts, including:

  • EndHepCMA, a collaborative effort among stakeholders to achieve the elimination of hepatitis C in Massachusetts
  • Food is Medicine Massachusetts, a coalition organized to implement the recommendations of the Food is Medicine State Plan, improve cross-sector communication among Food is Medicine partners, and advocate for federal and state policies that support Food is Medicine interventions
  • MA Trans Health Coalition, a network of over 40 organizations committed to expanding access to comprehensive and non-discriminatory gender-affirming health care in the Bay State

911 Good Samaritan Resources

These resources explain how the Massachusetts 911 Good Samaritan law can protect people from drug-related charges if they seek help for themselves or someone else who is overdosing. Available in poster and pocket card formats, and in English and Spanish.