Senator Friedman Co-Sponsors Emergency Legislation to Create a One-Stop Online Vaccine Appointment Portal and Phone Hotline

BOSTON (1/28/2021) – Late this morning, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) co-sponsored ​An Act streamlining COVID-19 vaccination sign-up in Massachusetts (SD.300)​, filed by Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow). The current vaccination appointment system has created mass confusion and anxiety, as individuals eligible for Phase 2 vaccinations are asked to navigate a complex web of internet links and appointment slots. This new portal will simplify and standardize the process statewide for booking appointments and allow a phone-based system for seniors who lack access or familiarity with technology.

“This bill is in direct response to the concern, anxiety, and upset that we have heard across the Commonwealth,” ​stated Senator Friedman, who served last term as Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing.​ “We believe that in a time when there is such a limited supply of vaccine that the state does not have control over, it is imperative that communication be clear, easy, and accessible for everyone.”

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Sweeping Economic Development Bill Authorizing $627 Million for COVID-19 Recovery Signed into Law

BOSTON (1/15/2021) – On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature in passing $627 million in funding for a sweeping economic recovery and development bill which will provide much-needed support to businesses, investments in infrastructure, and creation of new jobs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill was signed into law on January 14, 2021.

An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth ensures the residents of Massachusetts a COVID-19 relief and recovery package that will provide support to the restaurant and tourism sectors, small businesses, and those who have been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, while also creating a Future of Work Commission, establishing protections for student loan borrowers, and ushering in zoning reforms that will encourage housing development in our communities.

“The economic downturn caused by the pandemic is presenting serious challenges for working families and small businesses, exacerbating our housing crisis, and impacting sectors of our economy that our communities depend on,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of Senate Ways and Means. “This law provides immediate relief to the hardest hit sectors of our economy, putting our Commonwealth on a pathway toward a more equitable and sustainable economic future. I’d like to thank the Senate President as well as Conference Committee members Senators Lesser and Rodrigues for their steadfast leadership in moving this bill through the legislative process with a sense of urgency as our state continues to reopen and recover.”

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Friedman Joins Legislature in Passing Landmark Climate Change Bill

BOSTON (01/04/2021) – Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature to pass breakthrough climate legislation that overhauls the state’s climate laws, drives down greenhouse gas emissions, creates clean energy jobs, and protects environmental justice communities.

“I am pleased that the Massachusetts Legislature took this major step forward and solidified its commitment to protecting our environment,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington). “I am particularly proud that this legislation includes language I fought for during the Senate amendment process that would achieve emissions reductions equitably and in a manner that protects low- and moderate-income persons and environmental justice populations when the state is developing regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our communities. I want to thank Senate President Spilka and my Lexington counterpart Senator Barrett for taking the lead on this issue and putting Massachusetts on a path toward a clean, green and sustainable future.”

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Early vaccination in prisons, a public health priority, proves politically charged

In Massachusetts, the priority given to incarcerated people stems from the broader focus on congregate settings, said Paul Biddinger, medical director for emergency preparedness at Mass General Brigham and chairman of the state’s vaccine advisory group.

“Congregate settings are congregate settings, and they are high density and at risk whether they’re long-term nursing facilities or prisons,” said another committee member, Massachusetts state Sen. Cindy Friedman (D). That inmates are in such dire need of inoculation, she said, shows the failures of criminal justice in America, revealing the “extent of the breakdown and the gaps and the poor access to behavioral health care.”

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Telemedicine Here To Stay In Massachusetts, Proponents Say

In a year with few victories to celebrate, advocates for expanded health care in Massachusetts are pointing to at least one win: More access to remote health care, or “telehealth.”

Since early in the pandemic, health insurers have been required to cover telehealth visits as they would in-person care under emergency orders from Gov. Charlie Baker. On Wednesday, Massachusetts lawmakers passed a health care bill that makes that change permanent.

Massachusetts Sen. Cindy Friedman, a sponsor of the new measures, says the natural, if accidental, experiment created by the pandemic has proven the utility of telehealth for certain services, especially behavioral and mental health.

“Behavioral health just alone, no-shows, which used to be over 60%, for a whole host of reasons, all of a sudden that no-show rate (dropped) to something like 5%. Because people all of a sudden had access in a way that they could control,” the Middlesex Democrat said.

Friedman, who was pushing for the changes before the coronavirus pandemic hit, said the need for expanded telehealth is now irrefutable.

“There’s a time and a place,” Friedman said. “You can work on something for a very long time and not get traction, and then there’s an outside force that comes long that really crystalizes the need and the urgency of doing something.”

“We hit this pandemic, and it was clear where we had gaps in our health care system that we needed to address, immediately and for the long term,” she added.

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Fact Sheet: S.2984 – An Act promoting a resilient health care system that puts patients first

The House and Senate have collaborated to produce a comprehensive healthcare bill that will benefit patients and our health care system as the Commonwealth continues to face the most serious public health crisis in modern history. This Act removes financial and insurance barriers to telehealth services, expands our healthcare workforce by eliminating certain practice restrictions for qualified nurses and other health professionals, provides financial assistance to community hospitals, improves coverage for COVID-19 testing and treatment, enhances patient notification requirements to help avoid surprise medical bills, and makes several other notable reforms.

Click here to read the full fact sheet.

Friedman Joins Colleagues in Passing Comprehensive Health Care Legislation Amid Pandemic

BOSTON (12/23/2020) – On Wednesday, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), joined her colleagues in the Legislature in voting to pass An Act promoting a resilient health care system that puts patients first. This landmark legislation, which includes a number of notable health care reforms, expands patient access to care by lifting barriers to receiving telehealth services, broadens the scope of practice for certain health care professionals, requires advance notice of a provider’s network status in order to avoid surprise medical bills and improves coverage for COVID-19 testing and treatment amid the most serious public health crisis in modern history.

“This conference committee report embraces the best of both the Senate and House bills to create comprehensive and necessary healthcare reforms,” said Senator Friedman, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “While there is still more to do to improve patient outcomes and access to care, this bill takes a meaningful step forward by ensuring that the Commonwealth’s healthcare system can continue to meet the needs of patients during this unprecedented time, and long after the COVID-19 pandemic has ended. I am grateful to the House for their collaboration and to Senate President Spilka and Chair Rodrigues for their leadership and for giving me the opportunity and responsibility to help the Senate negotiate a resolution to this significant bill.”

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Massachusetts lawmakers reach deal on health care bill ensuring coverage for telehealth visits, COVID-19 treatment

After nearly five months of closed-door negotiations, Massachusetts legislators have reached a deal on a health care package that requires insurance providers to cover telehealth appointments and a wider range of COVID-19 tests and treatment.

The lead negotiators, Sen. Cindy Friedman and Rep. Ron Mariano, confirmed in a statement Tuesday night they had made progress on the health care bill, two weeks before the end of the legislative session. The bill tackles a series of long-standing issues about telehealth coverage and scope of practice for nurse practitioners and optometrists, while expanding access to affordable COVID-19 treatment and testing, lawmakers say.

“I think we’ve shown that we’ve taken lessons learned and turned them into making our health care system better for everybody,” Friedman, an Arlington Democrat, said in an interview Tuesday night.

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Friedman Joins Colleagues to Pass Balanced Fiscal Year 2021 Budget

BOSTON (12/04/2020) – Today, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), along with her colleagues in the Senate and House, passed the Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) budget, which invests in programs and services across the Commonwealth. Funded at $46.2 billion, the budget aims to address the sweeping effects of the global pandemic by making targeted investments in housing, food security, and substance use addiction services, as well as domestic violence, sexual assault treatment and prevention programs. The budget also invests in programs that provide COVID-related supports for students and increases funding for developmental services, early education and childcare, and public health.

“The current surge in positive COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts emphasizes that we must continue to do all we can to support our most vulnerable residents during these challenging times—and this budget helps to accomplish that by investing in much-needed behavioral health services, housing protections, reproductive health access, education and food assistance” said Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and member of the FY21 Budget Conference Committee. “I am extremely proud that we were able to keep crucial investments in place—the $46 billion will go a long way towards ensuring an equitable economic recovery for the Commonwealth. I am incredibly thankful to Senate President Spilka, Ways and Means Chair Rodrigues, and the rest of my colleagues in the legislature for their tireless work on behalf of the Commonwealth.”

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Friedman Joins Colleagues in Passing Comprehensive Police Reform Legislation

BOSTON (12/1/2020) – Today, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), along with her colleagues in the Senate and House, voted to pass An Act relative to justice, equity and accountability in law enforcement in the Commonwealth. The legislation represents the most comprehensive and intentional legislative response to incidents involving police practices in Massachusetts communities. It creates an independent, civilian-led commission to standardize the certification, training, and decertification of police officers, bans the use of chokeholds, limits the use of deadly force, creates a duty to intervene for police officers when witnessing another officer using force beyond what is necessary or reasonable under the circumstances, and takes steps to break the school-to-prison pipeline. It also creates a first-in-the-nation statewide moratorium on biometric surveillance systems, which include facial recognition technology.

“This legislation is a thoughtful and meaningful step in the right direction,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of Senate Ways and Means. “We have a lot of work to do in Massachusetts and across the country to address systemic racism within our institutions and reforming how we police is part of that necessary work—but by no means should it represent the end of this important conversation. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to strengthen racial justice and equity across the Commonwealth.”

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