February 2010

February 28, 2010

With the Chilean earthquake in the news, we want to take a minute to recognize two sensitive, humane steps taken by Governor Patrick and the Connector this month affecting Haitians in Massachusetts and health care.

First, the Connector will consider funds sent to help family members in Haiti as possible grounds for a hardship waiver for Commonwealth Care premiums. Many enrolled in Commonwealth Care have family in Haiti, and are sending money otherwise used to pay for health care premiums to help their relatives rebuild their houses and lives post earthquake. Board member Celia Wcislo raised this at an earlier meeting this month, and the Connector is taking the humanitarian needs into consideration.

Second, MassHealth announced a special policy (pdf) to expedite health program applications for arrivals from Haiti. Applications annotated as "Haiti Earthquake Survivor," will receive prompt consideration, and MassHealth has designated certain staff people that providers can work with to expedite processing (see also this statement on other benefits).

Health Care For All would like to thank Governor Patrick and the Connector for being one step ahead of other states in helping Haitians get the health care they need. These compassionate policies represent the best of what makes the Commonwealth a true community.
-Brittany McDaniel

February 26, 2010

Yesterday was Patrick Holland’s (Connector CFO) last Connector Board meeting; today is his last day at the Connector. Jay Gonzalez began yesterday's meeting by recognizing Patrick’s incredible work: “Patrick Holland is one of the reasons the Connector has been as successful as it has.” Jon Kingsdale echoed Gonzalez’s comments.

And we agree. Thank you, Patrick, from all of us at Health Care For All, for your amazing commitment and excellent work at the Connector! We have enjoyed your forthrightness, compassion, wit, and humor. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to work with you. Best of luck in your next venture.

The meeting discussed next year's Commonwealth Care program, including the procurement of health plans, auto-assignment of CommCare members to plans, and copayments, and next year's Commonwealth Choice program. Details below - click for more.

February 26, 2010


Click on the graphic above to go to www.NationalHealthReformIsGoodForMA.org, our website to encourage people to contact Massachusetts members of Congress to support health reform.

Following today's summit, which clarified so starkly the stakes involved in the health reform debate, we urge all those who support health reform to let their friends know about the site and contact their Representative in Washington.

Our friends at Community Catalyst (read their Health Policy Hub blog for succinct, insightful commentary on national reform) tweeted during today's summit. Following the summit, they tweeted the following wrap-up haiku:

The President asks

How many can we cover?

Deafening silence

We need to fill that silence with our voices calling for change.
-Brian Rosman

February 25, 2010

Today in Nurses Hall, Watch Your Mouth and Health Care For All celebrated the 5th Annual Oral Health Heroes Event. Several individuals in the legislature and our communities who have demonstrate outstanding leadership in oral health advocacy and/or a strong commitment to improving the state of oral health in the Commonwealth were named this year’s Oral Health Heroes. This year's legislative honorees are Senator Steven Panagiotakos and Representative Ellen Story. Senator Panagiotakos, while serving in a leadership role as Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, was instrumental in preserving dental benefits for adults on MassHealth in the FY2010 budget. Representative Story has consistently stood up for oral health, signing on to many great oral health bills and testifying at several hearings at the State House to promote oral health. We also are honored two members of the community who have demonstrated significant leadership in oral health: Hugh Silk, M.D., and Herlivi Linares, D.D.S. Dr. Silk is a family physician at Hahnemann Family Health Center in Worcester. He has been a longtime partner of the Watch Your Mouth Campaign, helping to plan oral health events in his community and consistently serving as a spokesperson with the media. Dr. Linares is an Associate Dental Director of Lynn Community Health Center Dental Services, and has shown an ongoing commitment to protecting the health and well-being of her community by providing crucial oral health services. You can see photos of the event and view videos of the speakers. -Christine Keeves

February 24, 2010

Health Care for All’s Helpline hears from thousands of callers each year that don’t have health insurance because they can’t afford it. The high cost forces people to make decisions between buying food, housing, and paying their bills or purchasing health insurance to protect their families. Today we would like to share one such story with our readers.

Melissa and Tom first contacted the HelpLine in 2008 when they opened their small business. The couple has worked hard to provide for their family, and their two young children. They were delighted to find out that their entire family qualified for coverage – the parents through Commonwealth Care and the children through MassHealth – that was affordable and comprehensive.

The couple called the HelpLine again a year later for assistance filling out their yearly health insurance renewal form. They were proud to report that their new business was doing well and that they had earned $70,000 in the past year. Melissa was shocked to find out that they were now making too much to continue to qualify for the affordable coverage her family had come to depend on, as guidelines in Massachusetts allow a family of four to earn no more than $66,000 per year.

Our HelpLine Counselor explained that once a family’s income goes above the limit for subsidized care, they no longer qualify for sliding scale help and would have to look into private health insurance. They looked into the family’s options and could not believe the jump in cost. Melissa was astounded to learn that since her family earned $4000 over the limit for the year, they would have to pay $12,000 annually for their comprehensive coverage rather than $2,784 that she would pay through Commonwealth Care, had their income been just below the guidelines.

National health reform would help folks like Melissa and Tom in having access to affordable health insurance options. Thousands of Massachusetts residents call the Helpline that fall between 300% and 400% of the federal poverty level. These people struggle every month to pay their health insurance premium or have to make the hard decision of going uninsured. This should not be a choice anyone has to make and we can make a difference. We ask Congress to pass national health reform legislation now. Please call or send an email to your Representative in Washington. For assistance and information to make it easy, click here.
-Hannah Frigand

February 24, 2010


Monday, HCFA helped organize a State House event to show widespread support for national health reform.

The speakers represented consumers, labor, religious communities, immigrants, insurers, business leaders, state government, hospitals and physicians. Our united message, echoing the points made in today's Globe op-ed: National Health Reform is Good for Massachusetts.

On today's CommonHealth blog, we excerpted some of the key points made by the speakers. Please click over to see who spoke out, and to read all of the reasons why so many groups came out to support national health reform. Or, you can see videos of most of the speakers, on HCFA's YouTube site.

A number of the speakers focused on how national health reform will expand affordable coverage, by filling in some of the gaps in Chapter 58, the Massachusetts reform law. Our Commonwealth Care program only provides assistance up to 300% of the federal poverty level, about $32,000 for an individual. Many people just over this income find it impossible to afford coverage. The national reform bills would allow them to get assistance, as the bill provide sliding scale subsidies up to 400% of the poverty level. This NECN report introduces us to Maria Velazquez, a caller to HCFA's Helpline whose health depends on national health reform:

While a wall-to-wall coalition of community leaders spoke out on Monday, on Saturday thousands of citizens marched through Boston, adding their voices to the call for national health reform:

We urge you to join Maria and everyone else who spoke out in calling on our Representatives in Washington to support national reform. Click here for a quick and easy guide to contacting your Representative.
-Brian Rosman

February 23, 2010

Every year, individuals in the legislature and our communities demonstrate outstanding leadership in oral health advocacy and/or a strong commitment to improving the state of oral health in the Commonwealth.

This week, Watch Your Mouth and Health Care For All are teaming up to honor these individuals at the 5th Annual Oral Health Heroes Event. Please join us in thanking these individuals and celebrating our accomplishments over the past year: Thursday, February 25, 11am-12 noon, Massachusetts State House, Nurses Hall.

This year's legislative honorees are Senator Steven Panagiotakos and Representative Ellen Story. Senator Panagiotakos, while serving in a leadership role as Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, was instrumental in preserving dental benefits for adults on MassHealth in the FY2010 budget. Representative Story has consistently stood up for oral health, signing on to many great oral health bills and testifying at several hearings at the State House to promote oral health.
We also are honoring two members of the community who have demonstrated significant leadership in oral health: Hugh Silk, M.D., and Herlivi Linares, D.D.S. Dr. Silk is a family physician at Hahnemann Family Health Center in Worcester. He has been a longtime partner of the Watch Your Mouth Campaign, helping to plan oral health events in his community and consistently serving as a spokesperson with the media. Dr. Linares is an Associate Dental Director of Lynn Community Health Center Dental Services, and has shown an ongoing commitment to protecting the health and well-being of her community by providing crucial oral health services.

The focus of the event will be celebrating the accomplishments that have been made by collaboration between the oral health community and other vested stakeholders. Dr. Frank Robinson, Executive Director of Partners for a Healthier Community, will give the keynote address, sharing his experiences in public health policy advocacy, building collaborations and leadership capacity to address various public health issues, including oral health. Other speakers will include: Senator Harriette Chandler; Representative John Scibak; Ralph Fuccillo, DentaQuest Foundation; Dr. John Morgan, Tufts Dental Facilities; and Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, Health Care For All.
-Christine Keeves

February 23, 2010

As we get the popcorn ready for the bi-partisan summit Thursday, the Wonk Room blog has good, basic chart comparing Obama's proposal with the House and Senate bills; Kaiser has a more detailed comparison. And while looking over the charts, anyone who missed this great clip from last week must click below:

<td style='padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;' colspan='2'The Apparent Trap
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Health Care Crisis

February 22, 2010

The number one reason millions of American lack health insurance is they cannot afford it. In Massachusetts, our health reform law has enabled hundreds of thousands of previously uninsured residents to get affordable, quality health coverage. However, sliding scale subsidies for insurance only reach individuals and families up to 300% of the federal poverty level (FPL), an income of about $32,000 for an individual.

The only option for most Massachusetts residents above 300% FPL, without access to employer sponsored insurance, is to buy insurance on the private market. Although our 2006 reform bill allowed individuals to get group rates (which cut individual premiums by up to 40%), many middle-income residents continue to find health insurance premiums unmanageable.

With national health reform, health insurance will be affordable for more middle class families in Massachusetts. Both the House and Senate bills, as well as President Obama's proposal, provide subsidies for people who make up to 400% FPL, or about $43,000 for an individual and $88,000 for a family of four. About 75,000 additional Massachusetts residents will receive subsidies to help pay health care insurance premiums.

Every year in Massachusetts, the Connector develops an Affordability Schedule that determines the maximum premiums that Massachusetts residents are considered able to afford for health insurance. Currently, the Schedule only takes the cost of premiums into account. We all know that insurance premiums are not the only health care costs people face; many insurance plans require subscribers to pay co-pays, deductibles, and/or co-insurance.

The federal bills take into consideration all out-of-pocket costs, not just premiums, in the definition of affordability. Unaffordable out-of-pocket costs pose a barrier to care for people who have insurance. Capping out-of-pocket costs helps protect individuals and families from medical debt and removes obstacles to getting needed care.

National health reform would build on the success of Massachusetts health reform, and provide more Bay Staters with affordable coverage. National health reform is good for Massachusetts. We ask Congress to pass national health reform legislation now. Please call or send an email to your Representative in Washington. For assistance and information to make it easy, click here.
-Suzanne Curry

February 21, 2010

Please Join Health Care For All and community leaders as we unite together in support of national health care reform. Along with patients, religious leaders, hospitals, health centers, providers, and the business community, Health Care For All will highlight why national health reform is critical for Massachusetts.

National health reform will offer affordable coverage to tens of thousands more Massachusetts families, give tax credits to approximately 70,000 small businesses to help pay for the cost of health coverage for workers, and cut the cost of prescription drugs for hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts seniors.

National health reform would strengthen Massachusetts's landmark law and help millions of Americans across the country. Our country is closer than ever before to passing comprehensive health reform; Massachusetts and the rest of American cannot afford to wait. The time is now and we urge Congress to pass national health reform.

Monday, February 22, 2010
10am
Nurses Hall, the State House, Boston

We urge you to call or send an email to your Representative in Washington. For assistance and information to make it easy, click here.

February 20, 2010

This winter we bid a fond farewell to Anya Rader Wallack of the Mass Medicaid Policy Institute (MMPI).  In her role at MMPI, Anya provided a clear vision on many issues including MassHealth and health reform, but most recently driving the Roadmap to Cost Containment.  Anya let data drive much of her work, but presented it with such clarity (and a sense of humor) that the recommendations were invaluable.  We wish her the best in the future and will miss her!

Both Joseph Murphy and David Morales have recently been officially appointed as commissioners by Governor Patrick.  Joseph Murphy, former assistant commissioner at the Division of Insurance, is now the Commissioner of that agency.   Murphy has started his tenure off with a bang by holding a series of hearings targeting health insurers in Massachusetts.  These hearings are culminating in a report due out next month.  Next up for the new Commissioner Murphy is looking at insurer rate increases and possibly denying some of them as part of the Governor’s broader small business initiative

David Morales has recently become the Commissioner of DHCFP.  David played a critical role in the passage of chapter 58, working then for Senate President Travaglini. Most recently in the Governor’s office, Morales has jumped into the cost containment efforts and is the driving force behind the recently released Cost Trends Reports.  Having served in both the legislature and the administration, Morales brings a certain clarity and focus to one of the most pressing issues facing the Commonwealth.  Next on his agenda is hosting providers and insurers for hearings starting March 16th so they can explain where our health care dollars are being spent.

We look forward to working with both Commissioner Murphy and Commissioner Morales in the coming months!

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