On Tuesday, the US Senate passed a bill to continue the health care debate, threatening major changes in Medicaid as attempted in the Senate earlier this year and passed in the US House.
Meanwhile on Beacon Hill, the Joint Committees on Ways and Means and Health Care Financing held a hearing on Governor Charlie Baker’s MassHealth Reform Package. Chief of Staff Kristin Lepore, Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders, and Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Rosalin Acosta were the main respondents for nearly two hours of the hearing. The Arc of Massachusetts testified later in the day, with staff being joined by two family members, Herb Cabral and Gillian Buckley.
The House voted down the Governor’s package on Wednesday, but it will work with the Senate and Governor on a compromise. House Ways and Means Chair Jeffrey Sanchez noted the “debate is not over.” Senate Chair Karen Spilka has stressed the importance of the business community accepting more responsibility for health care costs since so many Massachusetts workers are presently on MassHealth or the Connector. The reality is that with health care costs rising, there are fewer people covered by businesses, resulting in significant added numbers to MassHealth programs.
Health Care for All, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, and other groups are concerned that the solution to solving the funding dilemma falls too much on working citizens and those near or at the Federal poverty level ($26,400 for a family of four). At the hearing, it was clear that several of those testifying did not realize how expansive underwriting from Medicaid was in the areas of childhood education and schools, in addition to health care and long term services.
Secretary Sudders has made it clear that she has only a few options in reducing health care costs and presently freezing costs is the main tool available. She noted that can only go on so long before quality is severely impacted. The Arc’s position on the Governor’s package included more robust premium and related assistance for those moving off MassHealth, legislative oversight hearings on any changes to “optional services” (these include PCA, day habilitation, AFC, nursing, etc.), and support of the mid-level “Dental therapist” role. At the hearing, The Arc also referenced the reductions in the DDS budget and AFC, including the residential, employment/day, and transportation accounts at DDS.
See more on the Governor’s proposed changes and amended MassHealth waiver here.