Ticker: Health care compromise to Baker’s desk; Benchmark U.S. 30-year mortgage drops to record low 2.66%

Lawmakers on Wednesday rushed a compromise health care bill to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk.
The bill, which emerged from a conference committee on Tuesday, aims to keep telehealth accessible to patients after the COVID-19 pandemic recedes, steer more financial support to community hospitals and broaden the scope of practice for some nursing professionals. It also tries to limit surprise medical bills and improves COVID-19 testing and treatment coverage.
After nearly five months, the conference committee tasked with reconciling competing House and Senate versions of the bill filed its final product Tuesday. Baker has 10 days to act on it, a timeframe that will enable lawmakers to field amendments he may send back before the end of this two-year session.
Sen. Cindy Friedman, D-Arlington, who chaired the conference committee with House Majority Leader Ron Mariano, D-Quincy, said telehealth is now used by about one-third of Massachusetts residents, and that the technology has proven to be efficient and increase access to care. The bill cleared the Senate 40-0 and passed the House on a voice vote and without any discussion.
Under the bill, insurers are required to cover telehealth if they would cover the same service in-person, and must permanently reimburse for behavioral telehealth services at the same rate as in-person care.
Benchmark mortgage rate at new record low
U.S. long-term mortgage rates dropped this week to a record low for the 16th time in 2020, reflecting an economy hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the benchmark 30-year fixed-rate home loan slipped to a record low 2.66% from 2.67% last week. A year ago, it stood at 3.74%
The average rate on 15-year fixed-rate loans, popular among homeowners seeking to refinance their mortgages, dipped to 2.19% from 2.21%. A year ago, it was 3.19%.
The five-year adjustable rate mortgage was unchanged this week at 2.79%. A year ago, it was at 3.45%.
Helped by rock-bottom rates, the housing market has been a source of strength in an economy pounded by the coronavirus outbreak.

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