Beacon Hill Roll Call
Volume 47-Report No. 40
October 3-7, 2022
Copyright © 2022 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved.
By Bob Katzen
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THE HOUSE AND SENATE: There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week. This week, Beacon Hill Roll Call continues its look at the ballot questions that will be on the November ballot for voter consideration. This week: Question #2: Dental Insurance.
BALLOT QUESTION #2 – REQUIRE DENTAL INSURANCE PLANS TO SPEND AT LEAST 83 PERCENT OF THEIR PREMIUMS ON DENTAL CARE – The second question on the November ballot asks voters if they support a requirement that dental insurance plans spend at least 83 percent of their premiums received from members on dental care for the members and quality improvements rather than the administrative expenses of running the company.
The proposal is sponsored by the Committee on Dental Insurance Quality. Chief opposition to the proposal is being led by the similarly named Committee to Protect Public Access to Quality Dental Care.
“Dental insurance pays too little of patient costs, so families, seniors and individual patients with insurance struggle to cover their dental costs,” Chris Keohane, a spokesperson for the “Yes on 2” campaign told Beacon Hill Roll Call. “Requiring insurance companies to put more money into actual patient care will mean a better deal for patients. Similar to medical insurance laws, this law would require dental insurance companies to allocate at least 83 percent of paid premiums to patient care or refund premiums to patients to meet this standard. Simply put, a ‘Yes’ vote is a value guarantee for voters.”
“Delta Dental has funded roughly 90 percent of the ‘No’ side of Question 2 and have spent several hundred thousand dollars in legal fees trying to silence the voters who signed to have this placed on the ballot,” continued Keohane. “The facts are simple. Delta Dental doesn’t want people in Massachusetts to know that they spent only $177 million in actual patient care the same year they ‘gifted’ $291 million to their parent company. These are verifiable facts on their own IRS 990 Tax Form. Now they are spending millions to confuse voters with blatant lies and it is shameful.”
The “No on 2” campaign did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call to answer questions about its campaign. The following information is from the campaign’s website.
“Question 2 will increase dental costs for Massachusetts families and employers — by 38 percent, according to an independent study by Milliman Research,” says the “No on 2” campaign on its website. “A recent survey of Massachusetts consumers and businesses found that if such increases occur, more than half of consumers would likely drop their dental insurance and 90 percent of businesses indicated that they would be likely to make changes to coverage – including decreasing employer contributions and employee benefits or dropping dental coverage for employees altogether.”
“A ballot question is no place to decide such a complicated issue that will force consumers to pay more for the same level of care while only benefiting providers,” continued opponents. “Question 2 is an end-run around experts and the Legislature.”
Keohane told Beacon Hill Roll Call that he disputes the characterization of the study by Milliman Research as “independent.” “The ‘No’ side has peddled this study as ‘independent,’ but the insurance industry funded it, provided the data for it and their advertising is highlighting a specific portion of the ‘study’ that the authors themselves say is not possible. Their lies are a slap in the face to all voters.”
“We are extremely optimistic that ‘Yes on 2’ will win in November,” continued Keohane. “With well over 700 endorsers from patients, dentists, elected officials and organizations, we have assembled a grassroots movement that is fed up with insurance executives getting paid outrageous salaries and the exorbitant corporate waste that their own tax forms prove.”
Here are the official arguments of the supporters and opponents as they appear in the Redbook – the book, distributed by the Secretary of State to households across the state, which provides Information to voters on ballot questions.
Written by Dr. Patricia Brown
The Committee on Dental Insurance Quality
“A ‘Yes’ vote ensures better coverage and value for patients, instead of unreasonable corporate waste.
For example, according to its own 2019 Form 990, Delta Dental (in Massachusetts alone) paid executive bonuses, commissions, and payments to affiliates of $382 million, while only paying $177 million for patient care.
A ‘Yes’ vote would eliminate this inequity. Similar to medical insurance, this law would require dental insurance companies to allocate at least 83 percent of paid premiums to patient care, or refund premiums to patients to meet this standard.
Insurance companies will try to confuse voters by saying that dental insurance premiums will increase. This is false, because Section 2(d) of the law specifically disallows increases above the consumer price index without state approval.
Stop the corporate waste.
Vote ‘Yes’ for fair dental insurance.”
Written by Louis Rizoli
Committee To Protect Public Access To Quality Dental Care
“This question will increase costs for Massachusetts families and employers — a 38 percent premium increase in one recent independent study — and could result in thousands of people losing access to dental care. With consumer prices soaring, we don’t need a new regulation that will increase costs and decrease choice.
There is no law like this ballot question anywhere in the nation. The Massachusetts Legislature actually repealed a similar law in 2011 because it proved overly burdensome and provided no real benefits for consumers. Federal lawmakers excluded it from Obamacare, and a special commission in Massachusetts reviewed and rejected a similar provision. Further, the state already requires reporting from dental plans.”
ALSO, UP ON BEACON HILL
ALLOW CITIES AND TOWNS TO COLLECT CONDO FEES ACCUMULATED DURING FORECLOSURE PROCESS (H 3022) – The House gave initial approval to a bill that applies to cities and towns which have put a tax lien on a condominium property for the owner’s failure to pay property taxes. The measure allows cities and towns to collect, at the time of the foreclosure sale, any condo fees owed to the condo association, during the foreclosure process. Under current law, the city or town can collect only the back taxes but not the condo fees.
Sponsor Rep. Brian Murray (D-Milford) recounted a case in which several commercial condos in Milford were placed into tax title because of failure of the owners to pay taxes. He said it took six years until the property finally went to foreclosure, auction and sale. Following the sale, the condo association successfully sued the town for the back condo fees and the town had to pay $60,000 out of its pocket because under current law, it was precluded from recovering the condo fees in the foreclosure and auction process.
“I filed this bill to prevent such an occurrence from happening in the future, by providing a municipality the right to recover these [condo fee] costs as an addition to the tax title account and part of the terms of eventual redemption,” said Rep. Murray. “The bill seeks equity for cities and towns to be able to recover all known costs in situations where foreclosures of condominiums, which can take a great deal of time that translates into expense, become necessary due to the failure to pay real estate taxes.”
ELECTION LAWS BILLS SENT TO A STUDY COMMITTEE – Several bills affecting the state’s elections laws were sent to a study committee where bills are rarely actually studied and are essentially defeated. It is a way to kill a proposal without holding a vote on the bill itself. Here are some of the election law bills that were sent off to a study committee:
MAKE IT ILLEGAL TO PAY SOMEONE TO ATTEND TOWN MEETING (S 467) – Makes it a crime to bribe someone to attend or not to attend their local town meeting and imposes up to a 1-year prison sentence on violators. Current law makes it illegal to pay someone to vote at an election but does not apply to town meetings.
“For the integrity of our local government, it is crucial there be no incentive for attendance or absence at a town meeting,” said sponsor Sen. Paul Feeney (D-Foxboro). “There remains a loophole in the statute that we must work to close. [The bill] does just that by ensuring no payments, or compensation of any kind is exchanged for attendance or absence to a town meeting, similar to a prohibition on compensation in exchange for a vote at the ballot box. I will continue to support this measure in the upcoming legislative session and hope to see this oversight addressed.”
ALLOW RESIDENTS TO REQUEST ANONYMITY ON STREET LISTINGS (S 456) – Under current law, all Massachusetts households receive in the mail and must fill out an annual street listing (census) form that includes each resident’s name, address, date of birth, occupation, veteran status and nationality, if not a citizen of the United States, in January of each year. The information is used to maintain voting and jury lists, aid in school enrollment projections and for many other things including veterans’ benefits and proof of residency for state universities.
This bill would allow any resident of a city or town to request that his or her information from each city or town’s annual street listing not be posted publicly and not be disclosed to anyone without the person’s permission.
Current law allows a few people, including those who are under a court order granting protection or living in a protective shelter, law enforcement and public safety personnel, to request their information be kept confidential. The bill allows anyone to request the exemption.
“This straightforward bill would allow town clerks to refrain from making public personally identifiable information about voters if they receive a request from said voter,” said sponsor Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton). “I was happy to introduce this bill on behalf of a constituent of mine. This bill will not become law this session, but I look forward to further action in this space in subsequent sessions.”
REGULATE “PUSH POLLING” (H 821) – Would require anyone conducting a “push poll” to identify the candidate or organization for which he or she is working and inform the interviewee that the telephone call is a paid political advertisement.
A push poll is a political campaign technique in which an individual or organization attempts to manipulate or change voters’ views under the guise of conducting an opinion poll. During the call, the “pollster” asks questions related to an opposing candidate for public office which state, imply or convey negative and often untrue information about the candidate’s character, status or political stance or record, with the intent of “pushing” the interviewee toward adopting an unfavorable opinion of the candidate. Anyone violating the law would be fined up to $1,000.
Supporters say that push polls are misleading and should be highly regulated. Sponsor Rep. Jim Murphy (D-Weymouth) did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call to comment on why he filed the bill and how he feels about its defeat.
ALLOW SOME FELONS TO VOTE (H 829) – Would allow jailed felons to vote in elections unless they were convicted of indecent assault and battery on a child; attempt to commit murder by poison, drowning or strangulation; murder; manslaughter or assault with intent to commit rape; or any other crime for which the person may be punished by imprisonment in a state prison for life. Currently, the state’s constitution prohibits all convicted felons currently in prison from voting.
Supporters say the current law goes too far and should only apply to the worst of felons. Sponsor Rep. Dave Rogers (D-Cambridge) did not respond to repeated requests by Beacon Hill Roll Call to comment on why he filed the bill and how he feels about its defeat.
HAPPY CRANBERRY MONTH – Gov. Charlie Baker declared October as “Massachusetts Cranberry Month.”
“The Baker-Polito Administration is proud to support cranberry growers, who make significant contributions to the commonwealth’s agricultural sector and local economies. Our local growers are true stewards of the land, implementing the latest in proprietary technology and equipment to harvest their fruit, and utilizing innovative methods that conserve water and protect Massachusetts’ natural resources.”
— Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card.
“As a side dish at Thanksgiving dinner, served dried on oatmeal or salads, or enjoyed in a glass in juice form, cranberries are a mighty multi-purpose fruit with enormous health benefits. Autumn in Massachusetts is a special time for many reasons, but chief among them is the breathtaking scenery and imagery that takes shape across ‘Cranberry Country’ in Southeastern Massachusetts when the harvest season is in full swing and bogs are awash in crimson.”
— Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner John Lebeaux.
“The hard-working cranberry growers of Massachusetts are honored that the Baker-Polito Administration is once again recognizing October as cranberry month in the commonwealth. Despite the significant drought that impacted many of our cranberry farms this growing season, with some recent rain events, along with resourceful and innovative growers, we are excited for an expected good cranberry crop this year.”
— Brian Wick, Executive Director of the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association.
“I am extremely pleased to be celebrating October 2022 as Massachusetts Cranberry Month. The commonwealth’s cranberry industry has historically served as one of our most abundant statewide agricultural sectors – especially in the Southeast region I proudly represent. With Massachusetts responsible for over one-fifth of our country’s domestic cranberry production, I am glad we are taking the opportunity to recognize the valuable opportunities that this agricultural sector continues to provide for our commonwealth.”
— Sen. Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton).
HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION? Beacon Hill Roll Call tracks the length of time that the House and Senate were in session each week. Many legislators say that legislative sessions are only one aspect of the Legislature’s job and that a lot of important work is done outside of the House and Senate chambers. They note that their jobs also involve committee work, research, constituent work and other matters that are important to their districts. Critics say that the Legislature does not meet regularly or long enough to debate and vote in public view on the thousands of pieces of legislation that have been filed. They note that the infrequency and brief length of sessions are misguided and lead to irresponsible late-night sessions and a mad rush to act on dozens of bills in the days immediately preceding the end of an annual session.
During the week of October 3-7, the House met for a total of 23 minutes and the Senate met for a total of 40 minutes.
Mon. Oct. 3 House 11:01 a.m. to 11:16 a.m.
Senate 11:12 a.m. to 11:25 a.m.
Tues. Oct. 4 No House session
No Senate session
Wed. Oct. 5 No House session
No Senate session
Thurs. Oct. 6 House 11:10 a.m. to 11:18 a.m.
Senate 11:10 a.m. to 11:37 a.m.
Fri. Oct. 7 No House session
No Senate session
Bob Katzen welcomes feedback at email@example.com
Bob founded Beacon Hill Roll Call in 1975 and was inducted into the New England Newspaper and Press Association (NENPA) Hall of Fame in 2019.