House passes drug price negotiating bill

When Massachusetts State Senator Mark Montigny (D–New Bedford) read about a prince who received special treatment at a Boston hospital, he got hot under the collar. Montigny convinced his colleagues to back a budget amendment to fine hospitals for giving special status to wealthy patients, and the state Senate unanimously passed the measure, according to a report in the Boston Globe.

Montigny proposed the amendment after the Globe published a story about a Middle Eastern royal who stayed on the VIP floor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital for seven months in 2014.

Brigham was cited by the Department of Public Health for violations in the prince’s care, including not wearing protective gowns as required when a patient is diagnosed with a drug-resistant infection. The patient found the protective gear off-putting.

His personal aides were permitted to give him routine medications, and the prince gave thousands of dollars in gratuities to staff. Both are forbidden by hospital policy. Nurses said they turned the envelopes over to managers.

The new amendment states that “a health care provider shall not knowingly or intentionally designate, mark, label, or confer any special status unrelated to medical diagnosis, treatment, or care to a patient due to socio-economic status or direct relationship to the health care provider.’’

Providers must document and report violations to the state Department of Public Health within 72 hours. The department can impose penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, or up to $50,000 for failing to report a violation.

Source: Boston Globe; June 2, 2016.

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