We must protect the protectors

When police officers lay it all on the line and are severely injured while protecting the people of the commonwealth, we owe it to them to come to their aid with the same urgency they showed in coming to ours.

In 2011, Woburn Police Officer Robert DiNapoli was shot six times during a botched jewelry store robbery. But, as the Herald’s Mary Markos reported, though DeNapoli got the medical attention that was needed to keep him alive, he received no such aid in the process of collecting the benefits he and his family would need to survive afterwards.

DeNapoli and Oliveira went on to co-found the Violently Injured Police Officers organization, which provides support for law enforcement officers who have sustained serious, lasting injuries in the line of duty. They are now pushing a piece of legislation filed by state Sen. Cindy Friedman that would give severely injured police officers 100 percent of their regular pay until they reach retirement age and then 80 percent of their pension.

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Bill would aid severely injured officers in painful benefits battle

Being shot point-blank six times wasn’t as painful as trying to get a payment package from the city for a former Somerville police and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent, who was forced to retire because of his line-of-duty injuries.

DeNapoli and Oliveira, co-founders of the Violently Injured Police Officers organization, are pushing for a piece of legislation filed by Sen. Cindy Friedman. The bill would give severely injured police officers 100% of their regular pay until they reach retirement age and then 80% of their pension.

“It’s really unfair,” Friedman said. “If they are no longer able to do that job because, in the process of doing what we expect them to do they get so critically injured that they can’t do that job anymore, then I think it’s fair for us to say, “Okay, we need to step in here.”

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Amid Growing Debate About Supervised Drug Consumption Sites, Mass. Poll Finds Narrow Support

Exactly half of Massachusetts residents support the idea of opening supervised consumption sites in the state. A WBUR poll found 43% oppose such clinics, where drug use is monitored to prevent or reverse an overdose. And 8% of 660 adults (topline resultscrosstabs) declined to respond or were undecided.

In Massachusetts, state Sen. Cindy Friedman of Arlington and several colleagues are drafting legislation based on the commission recommendation to create one or more supervised consumption pilots. “We’ve got to try everything we can to try to help these people stay alive and get treatment,” Friedman says. “We should be seeing if it will work here.”

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57% Of Mass. Adults Know Someone Struggling With Opioid Addiction, WBUR Poll Shows

A new WBUR poll shows that the opioid epidemic is hitting more and more Massachusetts residents close to home. The survey also suggests that most state residents aren’t on board with a controversial law that allows the state to use jails and prisons to involuntarily commit some men to addiction treatment.

A state commission set up last year to review the law — called Section 35 — is expected to deliver a preliminary report next week. Among the members of that commission is Democratic state Sen. Cindy Friedman, who says jails are not the right place to treat people struggling with addiction.

“I understand that, in some cases, we need to just get people into a safe place,” she said. “But it’s all treatment-focused; it’s all about getting people healthy and in treatment. And I firmly believe that can’t happen in an environment where the structure is about corrections and punishment.”

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Health care chairs vow action on price variation

THE CO-CHAIRS OF THE Legislature’s Joint Committee on Health Care Financing may be new to their posts, but both seem to grasp the urgency of tackling big issues facing the state’s health care sector and both sound optimistic about solutions to some thorny problems emerging in the current session on Beacon Hill.

“This is a very, very, very big issue, and it is not something that we’re going to be able to skirt if we really are going to address health care costs,” said Friedman. She said there’s a need to address issues “at both ends of that spectrum” — dealing both with the much higher costs charged by big teaching hospitals while also making sure community hospitals aren’t bringing inefficiency to the overall system by trying to add costly services already provided elsewhere.

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Massachusetts therapist hit with a $28,000 bill from insurance company over retroactive claim denial

Meg Arnould said she always took pride in her meticulous record keeping for her therapy sessions. Then the Easthampton therapist was hit with a letter from an insurance company demanding $28,000. The company, who had recently reviewed six years of Arnould’s patient records, was issuing a retroactive claim denial.

While health care providers have to meet billing deadlines, insurance companies don’t have any deadlines for auditing clinicians and demanding payment years later, said Sen. Cindy Friedman, an Arlington Democrat who introduced S.589. Some insurance companies have directed third-party companies to pursue the retroactive payments.

“This has a chilling effect on how healthcare providers practice, discouraging many from take insurance, ultimately impacting patients’ access to service,” she said.

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“ROE Act” igniting debate on women’s reproductive health

BOSTON – A bill that would expand women’s reproductive rights and loosen restrictions on abortions has ignited debate on Beacon Hill.

Supporters say the bill, commonly known as “the ROE Act,” would increase access to women’s reproductive health. Opponents, however, are concerned because the legislation would eliminate parental control for minors and allow for later abortions, with some going as far as calling it an “infanticide bill.”

Although Sen. Cindy Friedman, D-Arlington, said, as a mother, she wasn’t completely comfortable with the lack of parental control, she feels strongly that the state needs to protect women and girls who need it.

“Nobody should make determinations over someone’s body other than that person or their medical professional,” she said. “It’s my body, my decision. And I feel that very strongly…Women have to be able to control their lives and their futures.”

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Woburn Construction Project Raises Health Concerns

WOBURN – The state legislators in the Woburn and Wilmington area wrote a letter to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection asking for the state agency to take “urgent action” regarding the Ledges construction project at 1042 Main Street in Woburn.

Of particular concern is the 420,000 cubic yards of soil that will be removed through blasting. According to the letter, which was signed by Representatives David Robertson, Richard Haggerty and Kenneth Gordon, as well as Senators Cindy Friedman and Bruce Tarr, their biggest concern is the amount of silica dust that will be sent into the air.

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Drug companies face scrutiny from Mass. lawmakers looking to lower cost

Members of the Health Care Financing Committee on Thursday pressed pharmaceutical industry representatives to identify ways drug manufacturers can help bring more transparency to their pricing and lower costs for consumers.

“You all have had a long time to be transparent,” Sen. Cindy Friedman, the committee’s Senate chair, said. “Pharmaceutical companies have had a long time to come to the table and say let us be as transparent as our insurance companies are and as all the other parts of health care that we patrol. You have had that opportunity, and you haven’t done it. With all due respect, we want you at the table but we need you to be equal partners and be willing to understand that you have skin in the game, we have skin in the game, everybody in this room does.”

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With health care bill, Baker is diving into a policy fight he knows well

After closed-door talks crumbled last summer, Beacon Hill is hitting reset on its pursuit of sweeping health care legislation, with one major difference: This time, Governor Charlie Baker, a former health insurance executive, will push his own plan.

Last session, the Senate was first to craft health care legislation, which sought to bolster community hospitals by setting a “floor” for the payments they receive from insurers, while penalizing big teaching hospitals if spending grew too fast.

Benson said she’s “not married” to relying on assessments to deliver funds for community hospitals. Friedman said she has not settled on an approach, either, though she cautioned that the needs of community hospitals — which often struggle to compete with Boston’s big teaching hospitals — should be addressed. “They play too big of a role in serving the neediest and most vulnerable. We cannot ignore them,” Friedman said.

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