As I look out my window I notice signs of fall. Traffic is slower, sometimes stalled on the way to the office, and our days are getting shorter. But fall is also when much of our work begins anew. Fall may be less than ten days away but for us it’s already here.
There are three general policy areas that especially challenge us as we look to the coming year. I look at them as major spokes on a wheel: the federal debate over tax reform and Medicaid caps, the crafting of the 2019 state budget (July 1, 2018-June 30, 2019), and potential changes to our state’s MassHealth program, which provides community services to individuals and families in addition to health care. Of course there is unfinished business of this session – bills and supplemental budget requests.
The federal Medicaid debate is something we work on with one of the finest disability policy teams in the nation (if not the finest) at The Arc of the US. For the 600 affiliates of The Arc and partners at the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, Medicaid is one of three key advocacy issues (along with Social Security/Medicare and Health Care). Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are making yet another run at placing caps on Medicaid before time runs out on September 30. But there is good news too as some senators work on a bipartisan health care bill. This federal debate ramped up in March 2017 and we expect it will continue. We don’t know what the next Congressional period holds for us and our entitlements to services – but we need to be vigilant!
As for the state budget, we continue to face uncertain revenues. The spring 2017 shortfall prevented the full allocation of one of the most positive budgets in our advocacy history this past fiscal year. Funding did grow however and the Turning 22 formula will hopefully remain the “new normal” as stated by our Governor and legislators. This fall we will be weighing in on next year’s budget primarily with the Executive Office of Health and Human Services led by Secretary Marylou Sudders. Concurrently, we will meet with legislative leaders and champions on our priority issues. Supporting families and Turning 22 will be key themes.
MassHealth (Medicaid) is going through a new managed care revamp and the legislature is debating MassHealth reform. Everyone acknowledges that the pace of Medicaid growth has been stunning and probably not sustainable. However a major factor of growth is related to ensuring that all our citizens have health care. Will we be forced to take a step back to ensure limited sustainability or can we have a mix of new revenue and reform to ensure health care for all? In my mind I think of persons who are in the workforce full-time with minimal intellectual impairments or developmental disabilities who need the health safety net for a variety of reasons. Of course I worry about our essential long term support benefits such as PCA, Adult family/foster care (AFC) and day services.
For these reasons and others, we need you to stay connected to The Arc of Massachusetts. We will keep you looped in. Without your outreach to legislators and others we cannot maintain the pace of achievements we have over the years.
Your participation with us will help you in your personal advocacy too – the information and the advocacy skills. We look to you to help us expand this lifetime of education and assistance to all who need it.
By the way, I love the fall. The crisp, cool air keeps my mind fresh. The coloring of the leaves remind me of our uniqueness as individuals… we all have something to offer and we all need opportunity.