On Beacon Hill: St. V’s doc fined for pot violations, Chandler backs oral health push, McGovern on GOP’s anti-LGBT move, and more

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Editor’s note: OK, folks, this is week 2 of the Sun’s latest new feature for members (there’s more to come, and soon too!), On Beacon Hill. We hope the name gives it away, but just in case: This will be a multimedia digest of Worcester- and Central Mass.-related government and political news from Boston and beyond.

From State House News Service

St. Vincent doctor punished by state board for pot violations

From a May 20 release to SHNS by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine (BORIM):

At its meeting May 19, the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine took disciplinary action against the medical license of William Ortiz, M.D.

The Board reprimanded Dr. Ortiz, a nocturnist at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, after he agreed in a Consent Order that he had been disciplined by the State of Maine Board of Licensure in Medicine for having engaged in unprofessional conduct; specifically, issuing medical marijuana certificates to 59 patients over the course of two days and keeping incomplete records for those patients.

A fine of $2,500 was also imposed. Dr. Ortiz, who graduated from New York Medical College in 1996, has been licensed in Massachusetts since 1999. He is also licensed to practice medicine in Florida and Maine.

For more information

Sen. Harriette L. Chandler, D-Worcester, speaks on behalf of a new dental care/access initiative.

Katie Lannan / State House News Service

Sen. Harriette L. Chandler, D-Worcester, speaks on behalf of a new dental care/access initiative.

Sen. Chandler backs push to increase dental care, access

It can take patients in need of oral care weeks or months to make it into Lisa Emily Simon’s dental chair, a time period when they are often saving up money and determining when they can miss school or work to make their appointment.

“And through it all, they are in pain,” said Simon, who practices dentistry in safety-net clinics and teaches oral health policy and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. “Preventable, ceaseless pain.”

Simon spoke to lawmakers, staff and advocates Tuesday at the launch of a new effort to integrate oral health with medical care in Massachusetts.

An initiative of Health Care For All’s Oral Health Advocacy Task Force, the project is based around the idea that incorporating oral health in accountable care organizations and more closely aligning medical and dental care can both save money and improve a patient’s overall well-being.

The initiative comes about a month after the release of a Health Policy Commission report that found access to oral health care varies widely in Massachusetts and examined the rates at which patients visit emergency rooms for preventable oral health conditions.

The report said one-tenth of the state’s population lives in areas federally designated as having shortages of dental providers and that MassHealth, which covers approximately a quarter of the population, paid for almost half of all visits to emergency rooms for preventable oral health conditions.

Sen. Harriette L. Chandler, D-Worcester, the Senate chair of the Legislature’s Oral Health Caucus, touted a bill she sponsored as a means of increasing access to dental care for people who currently lack it.

A Public Health Committee redraft (S. 2076) of bills filed by Chandler and Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, which was referred to the Health Care Financing Committee in December, would establish a mid-level dental practitioner post in Massachusetts.

After receiving the necessary education and certification, an “advanced dental hygiene practitioner” would be able to see patients in an office setting or in facilities like schools and nursing homes, Chandler said.

“Stay tuned, because we’re hopeful that we’re going to see some action on this before this term is over,” Chandler said.

The Oral Health Integration Project’s ultimate goal is to see oral health and dental services included as a requirement in new state standards for Medicaid and commercial accountable care organizations.

A payment restructuring effort is underway at MassHealth that would move the state Medicaid program toward an accountable care organization model instead of its current fee-for-service method. Accountable care organizations, or ACOs, feature networks of doctors working collaboratively to manage a patient’s care, including acute care, behavioral health, and other needs.

The state plans to pilot ACOs by the end of 2016 with a full rollout by October 2017. The MassHealth reform is expected to be completed by late 2018.

— Katie Lannan (SHNS)


Motorcycle safety advocates take State House, seek full funding of safety initiatives

The Massachusetts Motorcycle Association backs seven bills its members want to see passed this session, but the group rode up Beacon Hill for its annual “Storm the State House” lobbying day with one top issue in mind.

“Our main priority today is safety, motorcycle safety,” said Rick Gleason, the association’s legislative director. The organization has strong Central Massachusetts roots and an address in Brimfield.

Motorcyclists planned to visit the Senate Ways and Means Committee to urge action on a bill creating a dedicated motorcycle safety fund (S. 1855) and to thank its sponsor, Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Thomas M. McGee, D-Lynn.

Endorsed by McGee’s Transportation Committee in January, the bill was transferred to Senate Ways and Means.

When motorcyclists register their vehicles each year, they pay a $2 fee intended for an existing motorcycle safety fund, Gleason said. He said he’s been tracking the fund for 16 years and routinely sees the fund fill with only about half of the projected money based on the number of registrations. The association believes a separate account and new reporting and auditing requirements would ensure full funding.

“It’s already law, but it’s not being abided by and we’re losing the money,” Gleason said. “That’s an insult to us because we are the only body that pays into our own safety fund. As a car driver, you don’t pay into a safety fund. As a bicyclist you don’t. Motorcyclists do, and we expect that money to be there.”

A portion of the fund would go toward rebates for junior operators taking safety courses, and other money would be used for safety initiatives such as awareness efforts and training.

The association’s other legislative priorities include bills addressing issues of motorcycle sound emissions (H. 2973), parking (H. 3113), checkpoints (H. 2981), and penalties for drivers who injure motorcyclists in accidents resulting from right-of-way violations (H. 3056).

The motorcycle association also supports legislation (S. 2003) filed by Sen. Anne M. Gobi, D-Spencer, that would put an end to the requirement that adult motorcyclists and passengers wear helmets.

“We believe the adults who ride a motorcycle have the right to make that decision, so all we’re asking for is the right to have freedom of choice,” Gleason said. “The MMA’s stance is we will never tell anybody not to wear a helmet, we will never encourage people not to wear a helmet, nor will we tell people, you know, don’t go to states that don’t give you that choice.”

Thirty-one other states, including the rest of New England, have laws allowing some sort of helmet choice, Gleason said.

The association describes the helmet law as an economic matter, noting that motorcyclists who prefer not to wear helmets will leave the state to ride if they are Massachusetts residents, and avoid making trips here if not.

With about 250,000 motorcycle riders in Massachusetts, the association calculates that if 10 percent go elsewhere to ride — and spend at least $50 per day on food, gas, lodging, tourism and other items while traveling — about $1.25 million would be leaving the state in one day.

— Katie Lannan


McGovern responds to House GOP’s apparent anti-LGBT tactics

“The American people saw a shocking display in Congress as House Republicans broke regular order to force their Members to switch their votes and support LGBT discrimination. Speaker Ryan promised a fair and open process when he took the Speaker’s gavel last fall, but clearly that didn’t apply today. A clear majority of the House – including both Democrats and Republicans – were ready to protect LGBT Americans from discrimination.”

— in a statement released last week to SHNS from U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-2nd, a senior House Democrat and “proud supporter of LGBT equality following improper conduct of House Republicans” in holding a vote open to force Republican members to change their votes and defeat an amendment to uphold President Obama’s historic executive order banning anti-LGBT discrimination by federal contractors.

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern

Office of Congressman Jim McGovern

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern

A number of Republican representatives “changed” their votes on an amendment to a spending bill Thursday, May 19, that would have extended protections to LGBT individuals on a national level. The amendment was sponsored by openly gay New York Democrat Sean P. Maloney.

McGovern went on to say:

“The measure would have prohibited taxpayer dollars from going to contractors who discriminate against LGBT Americans. However, House Republican leaders deliberately extended today’s vote – even after time had expired – so they could pressure members of their party to change their votes.

“As Americans across the country continue to embrace LGBT equality, it’s extremely disappointing to see that bigotry is still alive and well in this Republican-controlled Congress. It’s pretty simple: Taxpayer dollars should never be used to support businesses that discriminate against LGBT Americans. Our country is better than this.”


SUDDERS AT TRAINING CAFE FOR RECOVERING SUBSTANCE ABUSERS  (Tuesday, 5:30 p.m., 421 Shrewsbury St.): Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders is scheduled to speak at the one-year anniversary event for Cafe Reyes, an on-site job training center for residents and graduates of the Hector Reyes House for substance abuse treatment.

The Sun profiled both the program and the restaurant itself in October.

Chef Louis Torres, left, and waiter Rey Ortiz are in recovery and proof of the impact Cafe Reyes can make.

Giselle Rivera-Flores / For Worcester Sun

Chef Louis Torres, left, and waiter Rey Ortiz are in recovery and proof of the impact Cafe Reyes can make.


Report: State’s ‘strong’ tech sector needs more talent

For each recent graduate with a computing and mathematics degree, the state’s technology and computer science fields have 17 jobs openings, a major contributor to the need for more college-educated workers who can fuel the Massachusetts tech economy, according to an industry group report released last week.

In the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council’s third annual “State of the Technology Economy” report, the group that counts 500 companies among its membership said the high tech industry is “a strong, growing pillar” of the state’s economy — directly or indirectly responsible for 35 percent of jobs in the state, 46 percent of the state’s total payroll and 31 percent of the gross state product.

“The state of our high technology sector is strong, and the future is bright on every front from education to cutting-edge research, from start-ups to high-growth midsize companies, and from transformational innovators to mature market leaders, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Mohamad Ali, CEO of Carbonite and former chairman of the MassTLC Board of Trustees, said in a statement.

The work is to fill the jobs, and there were more than 123,000 tech job postings in Massachusetts last year, according to the report.

“We have the best, but we simply don’t have enough of it,” the report states. “Our inability to fill these jobs will have dramatic consequences for economic output, opportunity for Massachusetts residents, and our ability to capitalize on the region’s leadership position in the next technological wave of innovation.”

To keep pace as advances are made in the Internet of Things and healthcare tech, MassTLC said the state has to do everything to open opportunities to women and minority workers.

“Business leaders and policy makers must focus attention on bringing innovative strategies that move the needle on providing opportunities for women and minorities to scale in Massachusetts,” the council wrote in its report. “This is an area where we are well positioned to again lead the nation.”

— Colin A. Young (SHNS)

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