A very positive element in the Senate health care cost control legislation is the creation of a Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund. I strongly support the creation of this fund because it will support cost-effective community-based prevention. Over the past few years, the Department of Public Health has been significantly under-funded — putting this trust fund in place will assure that the Commonwealth makes the necessary investments in prevention.
In the legislation as drafted, the fund will sunset after five years. I am a cosponsor with Senator Chandler of an amendment to remove the sunset provision.
Immediately below is language from the Senate President’s summary of the provision.
- Establishes a “Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund” to be administered by the Department of Public Health, in consultation with an advisory board.
- The Fund collects $20 million a year for 5 years from a “health system benefit” surcharge on health plans. After 5 years the assessment sunsets.
- The purpose of the Fund is to support community-based prevention and wellness programs aimed at reducing the most costly and most prevalent avoidable health conditions.
- Funds are provided to organizations through a competitive grant process.
- Up to 10% of the funds collected in any year may be used by the Department to promote workplace wellness programs.
- Requires the Department of Public Health to develop a “model guide” for wellness programs for businesses and may provide stipends to help businesses establish programs that improve health, reduce recidivism, and help control the growth in business health care premium costs.
- Expands an existing wellness incentive program for small businesses offered by the Commonwealth Connector. The bill allows more small businesses to be eligible for this program and increases the subsidy from 5% to 15% of the employer’s premium costs.
Click here for a summary letter from advocates about the fund. I agree with their recommendationt to eliminate the sunset provision.
Will, is there room here for some health-related regulations — for example, banning transfats resulting from partially hydrogenated oils (NOT banning the low levels of naturally occurring ones found in meat and dairy)
Might we also consider “whatever works” to get more people walking and biking? Not just as part of “now I am exercising, an activity all by itself that serves no other useful purpose”, but as part of just getting around? I’m personally stumped as to why so many people continue to put up with Belmont and Cambridge traffic and parking hassles by remaining in their cars, but clearly they do, so something is lacking. I look at the Winn Brook neighborhood, and wonder, “why would any of these people ever drive to Belmont Center? It’s flat, it’s close, the streets are friendly. What’s missing?” It would seem like this is an opportunity.
“Whatever works” might mean more state support for sidewalk repair and construction, or improved timing of pedestrian signals, or changes to crash-fault laws to make it clear that the heavier/faster vehicle has the greater burden of responsibility. It might be more support for bike paths as a general thing, or it might mean targeted work to address bottlenecks. Maybe it means a greater emphasis on direct routes that are not cut up by gratuitous stops, so the slower vehicle is not also given the longer route.
PS, on changes to crash-fault laws, I am merely advocating a traditional approach: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2012/04/invention-jaywalking/1837/
We fund $20 million in prevention and wellness investments from an insurance surcharge in the bill — we have long underfunded prevention and public health. In the bill, we include regional planning agencies among those eligible for prevention grants, so some of that money may possibly go bike/ped efforts — but I think the funding agency will stick pretty closely to public health goals.
The bill does not include new health regulations per se.
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