Baker bill mandates COVID reporting by labs, health providers
Proposal would allow fines up to $2,000 a day for noncompliance
GOV. CHARLIE BAKER is seeking legislative permission to fine health care providers and labs up to $2,000 a day if they do not give the state complete demographic data about COVID-19 patients.
Baker on Sunday signed a bill that will require the state Department of Public Health to publish more specific data about COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities and to provide expanded racial and other demographic data about individuals with the virus.
Baker says his proposal, filed on Tuesday, would “improve the spirit of the law” he signed on Sunday by helping DPH obtain accurate and complete information. “The quality of the data reported by the Department is entirely dependent on the quality and completeness of the data that is submitted by healthcare providers and laboratories,” Baker wrote in a filling letter that accompanied the bill.
Baker’s bill now goes to the Legislature for consideration.
The bill would allow DPH to create regulations and fine the entities required to report the data – which also includes elder care facilities – up to $2,000 a day if they violate the reporting requirements.
Baker said the bill is necessary because while DPH’s responsibility is clear under the new law, it is not clear what obligation providers have to submit the data to DPH.
While Baker can – and has – imposed reporting requirements via executive order, Baker said at some point, the state of emergency will end, and his executive orders will no longer remain in effect. The new law requiring reports from DPH continues until 30 days after the last report of a positive COVID-19 test in the state.
The purpose of the bill, Baker said, “is to create uniform standards for everyone who’s part of that information gathering and distribution and reporting chain.” Putting it in law is a way to make it permanent, even after the state of emergency ends.
The Massachusetts Public Health Association, an equity-focused public health group that was a major proponent of the initial bill, supports Baker’s proposal.
Baker’s bill includes two other modifications to the data reporting law.
The new law requires reporting of COVID-19 cases and deaths at different types of senior housing facilities, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities and also senior independent living complexes. Baker’s bill would eliminate the requirement on elderly housing complexes, where seniors live independently. Baker said this reporting requirement would fall on private landlords, who have no access to or right to their residents’ private health care information.
Baker talked about the legislation after a tour of the New Balance plant in Lawrence where the company is making face masks in addition to shoes.