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Massachusetts Senate approves mental health parity bill



BOSTON (AP) — Individuals suffering from mental health issues would have access to health care on par with those suffering from physical ailments like high blood pressure or diabetes under a bill approved unanimously Thursday by the Massachusetts Senate.

Supporters say the bill would help remove existing barriers to prompt health care, provide the state with better tools to enforce its mental health parity laws and create a more diverse workforce of mental health clinicians.

The bill is a priority for Democratic Senate President Karen Spilka, whose father suffered from serious mental health problems. She said she began talking publicly about her experiences in recent years to help bring mental health issues into the light.

“I speak about it because I truly believe we have to break the silence, we have to break the stigma,” Spilka said at a press conference before debate began in the Senate.

Lawmakers put several steps designed to get mental health care on equal footing with other forms of medical care in the bill, which is aimed at building on mental health parity laws passed in 2000 and 2008. The bill would end the need for patients experiencing acute mental health crises to get prior authorization from insurers before receiving care and making critical changes around how providers can bill for services.

The legislation would also create a special commission charged with recommending a common set of criteria to be used by health care providers and insurers for mental health services.

It also would expand mental health access to underserved cultural, ethnic and linguistic populations and the LGBTQ community by creating a pipeline of more diverse mental health professionals. Currently about 90% of mental health clinicians in Massachusetts are non-Latino whites.

Sen. Julian Cyr, one of the bill’s backers, said he struggled with anxiety and depression growing up, adding that he was bullied and had panic attacks in school.

Cyr, who is gay, said therapy has helped him accomplish things he never thought he could — but getting access to that therapy and getting his insurance to cover it hasn’t always been easy, something he said the bill tries to address.

“I’m a pretty savvy consumer. If I can’t figure out how to navigate through these barriers in accessing care in this broken system, imagine how many other people in Massachusetts can’t get the mental health they need?” Cyr said.

Lora Pellegrini, president of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, said the group believes the entire health care system — not just health plans — should be responsible for reaching the goal of mental health parity in Massachusetts. She said the bill would help move the state in that direction.

Pellegrini also said it’s important that state agencies, working with the attorney general’s office, create a uniform understanding of the federal mental health parity law and issue state guidelines “so that Massachusetts consumers, employers, providers and health plans can understand their rights and responsibilities under the law free of competing interpretations.”

The bill carries a price tag of about $5.7 million — money that would come out of an existing state fund.

The bill now heads to the Massachusetts House.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has tried to address some of the same concerns in a separate health care bill he filed.


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Sanders’ Rivals ‘Might As Well Crown Bernie To Take On Trump’ If They Won’t Stop Splitting Vote, Says Laurence Tribe



Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Democratic rivals “might as well crown” him as the candidate to “take on Trump,” unless they are willing to stop splitting up the vote in the primary race, Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe warned.

With Sanders projected to win big at the Nevada caucuses, strengthening his status as the Democratic frontrunner to take on President Donald Trump, Tribe warned that the race was too crowded for the democratic socialist’s rivals to take him down.

All six of the democratic socialist’s top competitors “have plenty to offer as alternatives to Sanders,” Tribe, the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard Law School, said in a statement on Twitter. However, he said, unless they “triage and reduce the 6 to 1, they might as well crown Bernie to take on Trump.”

“It’s tough,” said Tribe, who has been an outspoken critic of Sanders throughout the 2020 Democratic race. “I know, but it is what it is.”

Naming former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, former Mayors Mike Bloomberg and Pete Buttigieg, and philanthropist Tom Steyer, as the top six Democratic hopefuls competing with Sanders in the bid to take on Trump, Tribe suggested that they consolidate their strengths and throw their weight behind one candidate.

It is unclear which of the six contenders Tribe believes should be the one to go toe-to-toe with Sanders. But his primary argument appeared to be that unless Democratic contenders cut down the competition, Sanders may always come out ahead. Newsweek has contacted Tribe for further comment.

While Tribe has been critical of Sanders’ candidacy for president in the past, he has also made clear that the notion of supporting Trump over the democratic socialist is “incomprehensible” to him.

Some people on Twitter disagreed with the professor’s assertion that the only way for another Democratic contender to defeat Sanders would be to cut down the competition.

“If you think Bloomberg and Warren should unite based on their [ideological] similarities to stop Bernie, your brain is broken,” television writer Guy Endore-Kaiser said in response to Tribe’s plan.

Others suggested that it was still too early in the race for Sanders’ competitors to either step down or hand the democratic socialist the crown.

Democratic presidential candidate Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks following the Nevada caucuses during a campaign rally at Cowboys Dancehall on February 22, 2020 in San Antonio, Texas. Sanders celebrated as he was projected to win big at the Nevada caucuses.
Drew Angerer/Getty

Indeed, there is still a long way to go until a Democratic nominee can be confirmed.

While Biden did not see the results he likely anticipated in Iowa and New Hampshire, the former vice president appeared to hold second place in Nevada, as of early Sunday morning.

Sanders, however, was declared the winner not long after results streamed in Saturday night. By early Sunday morning, with 50 percent of precincts reporting, Sanders held 46.6 percent of the vote, compared to Biden’s 19.2 percent, according to the Associated Press. Meanwhile, Buttigieg was at 15.4 percent, Warren at 10.3 percent, Klobuchar at 4.5 percent and Steyer at 3.8 percent. Bloomberg was not on the ballot.

Sanders was quick to celebrate his apparent victory.

“We won Nevada!” he said on Twitter. “We are building an unprecedented grassroots movement, and together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish,” he said.

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US News banned me, and I don’t know why



Q: I’m having two problems with Walmart. When I order food online, Walmart has repeatedly delivered expired and rotten food. Also, I’ve had problems with I’ve been getting error messages on the site for the past 10 days when I try to check out. I can’t make a purchase.

Christopher Elliott 

Walmart customer service has given me all kinds of insane excuses for these issues. It continues to engage in unethical antics that insult and ridicule me as a homebound disabled person.

For example, Walmart customer service has repeatedly advised me to “go to the store” for my groceries, since the website is not working. I have explained that I am disabled and cannot physically get to the store.

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Can Ovechkin catch Gretzky? NHL’s new Mr. 700 has a chance



Alex Ovechkin is making the seemingly impossible appear to be not so far-fetched after all.

Wayne Gretzky’s 894 career goals has, for decades, loomed as one of hockey’s most untouchable records. The “Great One” set the bar so high it appeared out of reach for even the NHL’s best scorers.

Ovechkin, on Saturday, became the second-fastest and second-youngest player to reach 700 goals behind only Gretzky. Because he’s only 34 and shows no signs of slowing down, belief is growing that Ovechkin can challenge Gretzky’s mark.

“Alex is going to score another probably 150 goals, maybe more, before he retires,” Hall of Famer and fellow 700 goal-scorer Phil Esposito said. “He’s got a chance to catch Wayne. There’s no doubt about that.”

Gretzky scored his 894 goals in 1,487 games over a 20-year career with the Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers. A vast majority of his goals came during the sport’s highest-scoring era, and Gretzky reached 40 in a season for the last time at age 30.

Ovechkin is in the midst of his fifth 40-goal season since turning 30. Last season, he became the oldest to win the goal-scoring title since Esposito in 1974-75, and he’s on pace for 57 this year.

“I think he’ll score 50 until he’s 50 years old it seems like,” Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon said. “I never thought (catching Gretzky) would happen. I hope he can get close.”

Ovechkin is under contract through next season and would likely need to play four more seasons to take a legitimate shot at the mileston. Longtime running mate Nicklas Backstrom just signed on for five more years, so it’s not impossible to think Ovechkin stays around long term.

Asked what Ovechkin needs to do to approach Gretzky’s record, Esposito said: “Stay with the Washington Capitals. Stay with a good team.” They’d sure like that.

“He loves to score and continues to bring that to rink every day,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. “I think he’s energized by seeing where he can finish in the top 10, and it’s kind of fun to watch an older guy keep it going like he has.”

Gretzky recently told he’s rooting for Ovechkin to break his record, with staying healthy and playing on a good team the two necessary ingredients. Ovechkin has been one of the most durable players in hockey during his career, and the Capitals could extend their run of contending for several more years.

“The guy’s missed 17 games in 15 years due to injury — that’s freaking incredible,” former player and executive-turned NHL Network analyst Brian Lawton said. “They have a quality team that has staying power. He’s going to get three or four more years of being on an elite team.”

Backstrom, center Evgeny Kuznetsov and defenseman John Carlson are all signed long term after winning the Stanley Cup with Ovechkin in 2018. Wrapping up his playing days back home in Russia could be alluring to Ovechkin, so it’s unclear how many more years he wants to remain in the NHL.

“It just depends on how long he wants to play,” said Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, who allowed Ovechkin’s 600th goal. “You know he’s going to put up anywhere from 40 to 50 goals a year, and he’s going to be dangerous no matter what his age is or what his team’s like. You know he’s got a phenomenal team around him, and you know he’s just going to continue to beat goalies.”

Ovechkin wasn’t always scoring at this pace. At the low point of his career, he scored 32 goals in 2010-11 and 38 in 2011-12 before Washington bowed out in the second round of the playoffs.

An elite NHL goal-scorer’s prime usually ends in his mid-20s, and doubt crept in that the same would happen to Ovechkin. Not so fast.

“I think everyone halfway through his career would’ve said, no, he’s going to tail off at some point,” Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano said. “But he hasn’t stopped, so he has a chance.”

Two-time NHL leading scorer Connor McDavid grew up watching Ovechkin play plenty against his idol, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, and has been impressed with the consistency of the goals piling up.

“He just seems ageless and just keeps on scoring goals,” McDavid said. “I don’t see any reason he can’t keep doing that.”

The desire is still there. Veteran coach Todd McLellan enjoys watching Ovechkin’s excitement for scoring goals — except against his own team — and because of that is hoping he cracks 894.

“It’s great for our game to see him,” McLellan said. “As long as that excitement stays there, he’s still going to have the skill and the shot. He’s going to have a great team around him. I think he can do it.”

Lawton has run the numbers and can’t imagine Ovechkin not breaking Gretzky’s record. He’s conservatively predicting a 55-goal season, which would mean Ovechkin at his career rate needs to play roughly 300 more games to get close.

“Alex is in a completely different position (than Gretzky),” Lawton said. “Back then, players, we didn’t know and understand as much about nutrition and training as we do today. … Overall, looking in the future, I just don’t see there’s any way how he doesn’t break it.”

Boston’s David Pastrnak, who is currently neck-and-neck with Ovechkin and Toronto’s Auston Matthews in the goal-scoring race and might one day be the NHL’s next 700-goal scorer, “can’t really see” Gretzky’s record being broken. Pastrnak thinks Ovechkin will join Gretzky and Gordie Howe by surpassing 800, though Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy wonders about the goals beyond that.

“I think health-wise will determine that,” Cassidy said. “If he can stay healthy to at least 38, 39, 40, I don’t see why he won’t at least push up against it.”

Ovechkin is already in elite company in the 700 club with Gretzky, Howe, Jaromir Jagr, Brett Hull, Marcel Dionne, Esposito and Mike Gartner. He recently climbed past Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman and Mark Messier on the all-time list.

Yzerman closed a video message for passing him to Ovechkin by saying, “If you ever do break Wayne Gretzky’s all time record for the most goals in the league, after watching your Stanley Cup celebrations, I want to be invited to your party.”

Perhaps Ovechkin would party like it’s 2018, and it would possibly be an accomplishment that’s never matched again.


Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at


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