I believe that health care is a basic human right. I believe nothing else has a greater impact on all other areas of your life than your health. My own upbringing was heavily impacted by my mother's multiple sclerosis, and I have spent many years working on improving the health care options for Massachusetts' residents.
I strongly support the proposition that all residents should have access to affordable health care. In 2006, Massachusetts moved to the forefront of the nation's health care reform and passed legislation mandating that all Massachusetts residents have health insurance. Now that coverage is mandated we must focus on controlling the rising costs of health care so that individuals and public and private employers can afford health insurance.
During the 2007-2008 legislative session, I filed a comprehensive cost-control bill including 17 different changes to the law. These changes would promote transparency across the system, encourage cost-effective use of appropriate prescription drugs, and establish a commission to address the shortages in primary care providers. The Senate President's comprehensive health reform bill, filed in March of 2008, contains many important measures to control costs, including some of the items I have been working on. Specifically, her bill includes an academic detailing program (see ";Prescription Reform" below), a ban on gifts to physicians, and incentives to increase the number of primary care practitioners in the state.
As a part of the Massachusetts Prescription Reform Coalition, I have worked to increase doctors' access to accurate and comprehensive information on prescriptions, not just information provided by pharmaceutical marketers. In order for physicians to give appropriate and timely care, they need to have access to evidence-based, unbiased information. An "academic detailing" program would provide an important counter-balance to the information provided by pharmaceutical representatives. This has been shown to save money in other states where programs of this type have been implemented, but more importantly, it improves the use of prescription drugs. There are benefits as well as risks to taking prescription drugs, and we all want to be confident that when our doctor prescribes a medication, it is because it is the best option for us, not because they were just visited by a pharmaceutical rep.
I support a gift ban so that doctors do not become unduly influenced by pharmaceutical marketing techniques. Social science research shows that even small gifts exert unconscious demands for reciprocity. For physicians receiving industry payments, this reciprocity may take the shape of subtle shifts in judgment that the doctor herself is unaware of. Doctors may reduce their prescription of generic alternatives, increase their overall prescription rates, or prescribe new expensive drugs over existing options with real-world safety records.
I have worked to eliminate "data mining," a process in which pharmaceutical companies can buy reports on which doctors are prescribing which drugs, and alter their marketing accordingly. This sort of targeted marketing shows me that pharmaceutical companies are more interested in the profits associated with their programs than the "educational" nature of their marketing programs.
I support the expansion of Massachusetts' Senior Care Options programs to enroll more seniors and the establishment of a similar program for disabled residents. Coordinated and quality care is essential to the maintenance of health. We need to create and expand programs that support our neighbors.
The Commonwealth is in a primary care crisis. There are not enough primary care practitioners and we are losing the new doctors we train in our state institutions to other states. I support the establishment of a special commission to develop a statewide plan to rescue and revive primary care. We must ensure that we all have access to health-promoting and preventive care.
It is absolutely necessary for hospitals to identify, track and make public reports of instances of hospital acquired infection and other serious preventable adverse medical events. I support current legislation that would help health care facilities to improve the care they provide, and allow for greater consumer information and choice.