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News & Event

Policy Issues to Watch

There's a lot going on in local, state and national policy news that impact the health of the region. To keep you informed, we asked our Policy Analyst Kate Baker to give us a couple of policy issues worth following. Here's Kate's list for April:
 
Tobacco Control
 
New Massachusetts state law further regulates tobacco and vaping-related products. These regulations effect packaging, raise the age of purchase from 18 to 21 statewide, prohibit free samples, and prohibit the sale of products in health care institutions. As this law is not preemptive in that it sets the "floor", not the "ceiling" for tobacco regulation, local cities and towns have the opportunity to further cap the number of local retailers and regulate the availability of flavored products to further limit youth access.
 
Currently there are 10 MetroWest towns  that have placed restrictions on the sale of flavored tobacco products.  Ashland and Needham recently added restrictions on the sale of mint/menthol flavored tobacco products. Needham's policy is effective July 2019, while Ashland's policy is effective January 2020. We anticipate that other MetroWest communities will take up similar restrictions this year. 
 
Affordable Care Act
 
A decision by a federal district court in December 2018 (Texas v. Azar) struck down the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in its entirety. However, the ACA remains in place until the Supreme Court rules otherwise. The Trump administration said recently that it will seek to uphold the judge's decision in this case, even though no alternative to the ACA is under consideration.
 
Implications of a complete repeal of the ACA would vary by state. A report by the Urban Institute estimates that the number of uninsured in Massachusetts could increase by 102,000-338,000 individuals. Massachusetts also benefited from a Medicaid 1115 waiver before the ACA, which allows for greater flexibility in the use of Medicaid funds, and it is unclear whether the waiver would be extended in the event of repeal.
 
We can expect the cost of healthcare to be discussed frequently in conversations leading up to the 2020 presidential election; most Americans agree that the high price of healthcare in the US is a major problem. A recent poll by Politico and the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health confirmed that Democrats tend to believe that government is best equipped to control costs, while Republicans tend to believe that the solution lies in the marketplace.
 


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