Whether in the provision of health care delivery, clinical research, development of new technologies and pharmaceuticals or the education of our nation’s health care professionals, the importance of the health care industry to the economy and identity of the New England region cannot be overstated. With more than 11 percent of the region’s workforce directly engaged in health care, we have the highest concentration of health care employment in the nation. In addition to the advances made in medicine, the health care industry is a vital part of the region’s innovation economy and continues to play a significant role in the economic development of the region.
The members of our Health Care Committee include health insurers and plan providers; community, rural and teaching hospitals; drug and medical device manufacturers and suppliers; independent physician organizations; non-profit think tanks; and trade groups and associations representing all of the above. In short, the committee represents a microcosm of the industry as a whole.
The Healthcare Committee is co-chaired by Deirdre Savage of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and Laurel Sweeney of Philips Healthcare. The NEC staff contact for the Health Care Committee is Emily Heisig.
Legislative Efforts to Combat Opioid Addiction
As the opioid addiction crisis continued to have a devastating impact in New England, the Healthcare Committee reviewed a number of federal legislative proposals relative to prevention and treatment of opioid abuse. The Committee identified several proposals –all introduced and supported by members of the New England delegation—for the Council to support. In September 2016, the Council sent a letter of support to House members regarding Rep. Joe Kennedy’s (D-MA) National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting (NASPER) Act, which was passed by the House on September 8. The NASPER program provides states grant funding to foster the use of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs).
In October 2016, the Council sent a letter to all New England Senators expressing support for the Senate version of the NASPER Act, sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), as well as several other bipartisan bills, including:
The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which is co-sponsored by Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and would provide a series of incentives and resources designed to encourage states and local communities to pursue a full array of proven strategies to combat addiction.
The Heroin and Prescription Opioid Abuse Prevention, Education, and Enforcement Act, also sponsored by Senator Ayotte, which takes a multi-pronged approach to help prevent opioid abuse and overdose deaths
The Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment Act, sponsored by Senator Edward J. Markey, which would expand the ability of trained medical professionals to provide life-saving medication-assisted for patients suffering from heroin and prescription drug addiction.
The Comprehensive Addiction and Recover Act was passed by the Senate in March 2016.
On November 9, 2015, The New England Council hosted a Regional Opioid Abuse Forum at the Seaport Hotel in Boston. Nearly 250 NEC members and guests attended the half-day event. Speakers and panelists from throughout the region highlighted the innovative private and public sector approaches to tackling the opioid abuse crisis in our region, and explored opportunities for collaboration, both between the public and private sectors and among the New England states.
The forum featured remarks from U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), Governor Charlie Baker (R-MA), and Governor Maggie Hassan (D-NH). The program also included two panel discussions: one highlighting innovative approaches to combating abuse in the private sector, and the second highlighting some of the initiatives by state and federal government to combat abuse.
The forum was sponsored by the following Council members: AIG, Beacon Health Options, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, CVS Health, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and Tufts Health Plan.
On November 7, 2014, the Council hosted a Discussion of the Ebola Outbreak at Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory. The forum featured a panel of the region’s top medical and public health experts who discussed various elements of U.S. and international responses to the ongoing outbreak, as well as other issues, including health system preparedness; protocols for screening and containment; travel and transport issues; research and development of Ebola treatments and vaccines; the appropriate use of experimental drugs; whether U.S. programs have appropriately improved our preparedness for emerging infectious diseases; and what measures the business community can take to assist with these efforts.