By Naomi Bromberg Bar-Yam, PhD
It’s time to submit written testimony for the Massachusetts pump bill. In this post we explain how to do that and what to say.
A bill mandating insurance coverage for high-quality multi-user breast pumps for mothers and their sick, hospitalized babies is before the Massachusetts legislature, specifically the Committee for Financial Services. Along with other bills mandating insurance coverage for women’s health matters, this bill was considered at a hearing on October 17 (you can watch oral testimony from Senator Cynthia Creem, neonatologist Dr. Margaret Parker, and MBC Advocacy Committee Chair Naomi Bar-Yam starting at minute 57 in this recording of the hearing).
In addition to the oral testimony at the hearing, the committee will consider written testimony as they decide how to refer the bill out of committee. It’s easy and quick to write to your legislators, and they want to hear from you.
Some information about the process
- The Massachusetts legislature has two-year sessions. This gives them two years to decide on a bill before it needs to be reintroduced and begin the process again. This session runs from January 2023 to December 2024.
- Versions of this bill have been introduced in the two previous sessions. Most bills take multiple sessions to reach the full legislature for a vote. We would very much like this bill to pass in this session.
- If the bill is not reported favorably from the Financial Services Committee, it will not be considered further by other relevant committees, or voted on by the legislature.
- If the bill is reported favorably, it will be passed to the Joint Health Care Finance Committee.
- Committees and the legislature consider hundreds of important and worthy bills each session on a wide range of topics. One of the ways they decide how much time and effort to devote to a bill, and how to report it out, is by hearing from the citizens of Massachusetts at hearings and through written testimony. That’s where we come in.
What is written testimony?
Don’t let the term scare you. Written testimony is a letter (1-2 pages is best) to the committee about who you are and why you think this bill is important. Committee staff read each letter and synthesize the information in a spreadsheet for committee members to read to inform their position before they take a vote.
- Committee staff members have advised us to submit written testimony within 30 days of the hearing. That means our deadline is November 16. Your testimony is important even if your legislator is not on this committee. Committees are accountable to all citizens of Massachusetts.
- Email your testimony, and any attachments, to the Financial Services Committee.
- Please cc the MBC Advocacy Committee for our records and follow-up.
- Please cc your legislators, so they know this is important to you when it comes before a committee they are on, and for a vote on the House/Senate floor.
- One of the columns on the committee’s spreadsheet is support or not support. Staff members will look at your letter and enter one or the other. Be clear that you support this bill.
- Your voice matters. Letters from many people communicate that this bill is important to a lot of constituents, making it harder to ignore.
- Keep it short, 1-2 pages. No one will read more than that.
- Testimony from clinicians, lactation professionals, researchers, and parents are all crucial to creating a full picture for the committee.
What should I say in my letter?
- Which bill are you writing about and what is your position?
- S600 / H967 An Act Improving Access to Breast Pumps
- Support the bill.
- Introduce yourself.
- Who are you? Name, location, qualifications (letters after your name, if relevant), workplace (if relevant).
- Why are you writing about this bill? Personal experience? Expertise in the field?
- Why is access to high-quality multi-user pumps at home important?
- For families, what is your personal story about the difference having, or not having, access to such a pump at home made for you and your child?
- For professionals, what is your experience with your patients and clients regarding such access?
Other important points
We also want to educate legislators about equity and disparities, so if you are able, please include points like these:
- Health disparities, particularly in perinatal health, are a national and statewide priority, with good reason. This bill is about equitable access to health- and life-saving equipment.
- Black babies are twice as likely to be born premature and 2-1/2 times more likely to die in infancy than their white counterparts. Black families are less likely to be able to afford monthly rental fees for high quality pumps, replacement parts, and lactation consultation for proper fitting, ongoing support, and education.
- No doctor would consider using an inferior respirator for a patient based on income or insurance coverage. Similarly, high-quality multi-user pumps are essential equipment for mothers separated from the sick and preterm babies.
- Find more talking points in our prior blog about providing testimony.
Template for letter
If you wish, you can download and personalize this template for your testimony.
On behalf of families with fragile babies, thank you for taking a few minutes to make your voice heard!