March 2012

March 31, 2012

HCFA Executive Director Amy Whitcomb Slemmer was at Wednesday's Supreme Court arguments on the constitutionality of the Medicaid expansion. Here's her report:)

Greetings from SCOTUS (as the cool kids are calling it). This was another incredible day from the Supreme Court of the United States where the final day of arguments about the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act was discussed, dissected and debated among the members of the highest court in the land. Day three had fewer protesters providing color commentary outside the building, but double the line standers because the day’s arguments were divided between the hearing in the morning which focused on severability - i.e. if the court struck down one part of the ACA would the rest of it stand or fall, and the hearing this afternoon which examined the constitutionality of the Medicaid expansions.

Instead of taking a sure shot at a 3-5 minute line ticket in the morning, I staked my entire morning’s efforts on getting a seat for the full afternoon arguments. I am THRILLED that it paid off! Not only did I have a terrific time in line for hours this morning, meeting fascinating people, talking to far flung journalists, and being harangued by a dedicated Tea Partier, but out of 60 publicly available tickets, I was ticket number 55! And lucky 55 turned out to land me in a PERFECT seat – third row, center in an aisle chair rather than squished in the traditional bench seating.

Sitting in front of me was the long-time HCFA friend Cindy Mann, who represented us while at the Mass Law Reform Institute in the 90s, and now is the national Medicaid chief at CMS. Sitting in front of her was HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius whose discretionary power to completely eliminate individual states’ Medicaid funding was at the forefront of much of today’s debate. Sitting behind me were members of Congress, including the dean of our own delegation Congressman Ed Markey, with whom I enthusiastically agreed that “it is ALL about Massachusetts!” He then generously introduced me to the leaders from the National Health Law Program and I introduced him to the woman who was first in line for the week’s arguments. She was the lawyer from Atlanta who was collecting signatures on her pocket Constitution, and Congressman Markey generously joined her group of signers.

Once the arguments began I took copious notes (no computers allowed). We were allowed to have a pen and paper – without writing on it – in the court room. Also no scarves, cell phones, clothing with logos, or hats – although a woman who sat in the spouse section arrived with a giant red chapeau and I didn’t see her being asked to remove it.

By 12:50 pm the room was packed, and a hush fell over the crowd, like we were in church. No one got up, only a few stragglers were shown to their seats and for nearly 5 full minutes there was no activity whatsoever. We stood as the Justices entered the court room and waited until we were invited to be seated. Mr. Clement, the former Solicitor General representing Florida and another 25 states opposing implementation of the Affordable Care Act, stepped to the lectern, said, “May it please the court,” and we were off. Justice Kagan interrupted immediately asking what amount of money would the Federal Government have to offer for something not to be coercive, but a gift. And what, she hypothesized, would happen if the Federal Government offered to pay 100% of the program that was being proposed? And the debate was off.

True to form, this was another hearing in which Justice Thomas did not speak, but he was the lone silent Justice, as everyone else got in on the action at some point. Justice Alito did not ask any questions of the Mr. Clement, but asked several of Solicitor General Verrilli.

Judged on speed of answers and ability to redirect the Justice’s focus to the question at hand, Mr. Clement was unmatched. The Solicitor General did a very good job, and was at a distinct disadvantage as most of the questions that were aimed at him lived in the realm of hypotheticals. He truly was challenged to bring the Justices back to the case at hand.

At the end of the allotted time, the Chief Justice allowed the Solicitor General an additional 15 minutes of time – which I thought must have been a miserable gift for this lawyer who had to have thought the home stretch was before him. He made the most of his time and continued to respond to very difficult and labyrinthine questions and then it was time for the closing arguments. Mr. Clement summarized the arguments we had already heard – he stuck closely to the three reasons his clients were arguing against the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

The Solicitor General closed by saying that this is all about liberty. He co-opted the arguments made by the opposition, both politely in the court room and outrageously in front of the court. The Solicitor General summed up on behalf of all of us who believe in health care for all that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and provides the opportunity for liberty for millions of uninsured Americans who will be given the liberty of being free from dying without health care, or going into bankruptcy because of a chronic illness. General Verrilli gave finished with the most passionate statement that I heard of the afternoon. There were a few more comments made and the hearing came to a close.

March 28, 2012

Massachusetts ranks as one of the top states for medication adherence, while residents with chronic conditions are more likely than residents of all other states to take generic medication. These findings come from CVS Caremark’s new report, which examined medication adherence for four common chronic diseases – diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and depression – in all 50 states to determine if patients are taking (or not taking) their medications.

The fact that Massachusetts has good prescription drug adherence rates across all conditions with correspondingly high generic rates points to yet another compelling reason for encouraging the use of generic medication. According to the report, the use of generics is a critical component in determining whether patients are following their prescription drug regimen because the high cost of brand-name drugs can be a deterrent. Increasing medication adherence can help patients avoid unnecessary medical treatments and hospitalizations, which experts estimate can cost $290 billion annually. In addition, the use of generics can generate savings for the entire health care system by saving consumers money in out-of-pocket costs and lowering prescription drug costs for employers and insurers.

Health Care For All has long supported two existing laws in Massachusetts that encourage the use of generic medications over higher-cost brand name drugs: the gift ban and disclosure law and the ban on so-called drug coupons. Both of these laws place restrictions on the marketing practices of pharma and medical device manufacturers, who use marketing to promote the newest, most expensive brand name drugs over equally effective and cheaper generics.

The gift ban and disclosure law prohibits drug and medical device companies from providing gifts, such as meals or entertainment, to doctors, nurses, pharmacists, hospitals, and other health care providers, as part of their marketing practices. The law further requires the reporting of many provider payments from the drug and medical device industry, which DPH annually publishes on their website. The gift ban enables the Commonwealth to limit the aggressive marketing activity conducted by the drug and medical device companies so that industry profits do not come before patients’ health and their pocketbooks.

Massachusetts has also long banned the use of so-called prescription drug coupons. While this drug industry marketing tactic initially lowers out-of-pocket costs for consumers, coupons are typically available only for a limited supply of high cost name-brand drugs, leaving patients with higher copays for the remaining duration of their prescriptions. A recent Consumer Reports article warns of the deceptive nature of coupons, cautioning consumers to beware of this marketing ploy that can increase costs in the long run for consumers, employers and insurers.

Indeed, when examined alongside the findings from the recent report on drug adherence, these two laws – aimed at protecting consumers and controlling health care costs by encouraging the use of generics – seem to be working. In fact, the correlation between the high use of generics and the state’s high prescription drug adherence rates shows yet another potential benefit of these laws: more patients are taking generics and sticking to their prescriptions, which in turn translates into improved health outcomes and savings for both consumers and the state.

At a time when Massachusetts lawmakers are looking for the most effective ways to improve health care quality and control costs, the recent findings on adherence to generic drugs indicate that Massachusetts is making headway in an area that can improve health outcomes and deliver real health care savings for both patients and the state. And we are incredibly fortunate to have the gift ban and drug coupon marketing ban laws in place to support these goals.
-Alyssa Vangeli

March 27, 2012

HCFA Executive Director Amy Slemmer is in Washington this week, and sent this report from the oral arguments on the Affordable Care Act.

Hello from the US Supreme Court.

I’ve been out front with the crowd joyfully calling for health care for all – a song to my ears. I’ve been in the screening line waiting patiently for the xray machine which was slowed down by suited men who felt the request that they empty their pockets was an insulting demonstration of the police’s ignorance of their importance. I’ve shaken hands with a man whose broad smile rivaled only my own, who announced that he is “with the other side”… which of course prompted a, “but how do you know which side I’m on?” Which made him laugh. Turns out he heads one of the repeal groups. There are several varieties here. There are also hundreds of supporters including union members, lawyers, street activists, and some regular folks from the local area who have shown up to show support for the law. It seems like a very large group of those present are incredibly lucky folks whose vacations happened to fall on this historic week.

Since I was not one of the incredibly fortunate or all-weekend outdoor camping 60 members of the general public who received a ticket today, I decided to mill about and make my way to the 3-minute line. I talked to others in line and the one thing we shared was a tremendous sense of appreciation for the privilege of being where we were today. There was an insurance executive, who did not want to identify himself, but offered up some grudging appreciation for my poetic recitation of MLR (medical loss ratio) rates for Massachusetts as compared to those included in the Affordable Care Act, an HHS staffer who knows of Health Care For All and was effusive with her support, a couple from Canada – one a health care lawyer and her husband each of whom expressed tremendous surprise at the tenor of the protesters, and a family from Philadelphia who were in the middle of a VIP tour of DC. Their line standing experience seemed only slightly exciting, being sandwiched between a tour of the White House and their impending lunch in the Members Only dining room in the Senate. Slightly curious about this high flying foursome, I discovered that they had won their executive treatment as part of an auction “for a really good community cause.” The teen and tween son seemed to be nearly as excited as their parents.

The 3-minute seats are those at the very back of the courtroom, many are behind the heavy velvet drapes that were once used to muffle the sounds outside the legal sanctuary. I was escorted to mine, which had a pretty decent view – but as each tourist is reminded, you may not be able to see all of the Justices, but you can certainly hear everything that is being said.

Massachusetts Reform Cited To The Court
I was there for the closing arguments, and arrived as the Plaintiff’s lawyer (opposing the Affordable Care Act) argued that Congress couldn’t create a market to then regulate it and that the Act was prohibiting young healthy adults from buying catastrophic health coverage. When it was Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli’s turn, he said it was unrealistic to assign people to risk pools when they present in emergency rooms or are sick. You can’t remedy the problem of uninsurance at the point of sale. He also said that this approach is working in Massachusetts and will on a national basis.

Court decorum prohibited me from sending Mr. Verrilli a shoutout from the free seats, but I did enjoy some knowing nods of support and approval from my new line standing friends.

After the arguments ended, I shook hands with some pretty cool people, some of whom would support HCFA’s work, and some who wanted to distinguish between our Massachusetts experience and the Affordable Care Act. I had a lovely, albeit brief, conversation with Secretary Sebelius, who said nice and supportive things, and then I exited slowly so that I could watch the throngs shout and exercise their sometimes coarsely exercised, free speech. As I left, I heard the two sides squaring off. While the opponents of reform were chanting, “Hey Hey. Ho ho. Obamacare has got to go,” the other side's response was “HEALTH CARE FOR ALL!” This made me smile and put a spring in my step as I decided to follow the noise to a rally that was being held in a park outside the US Senate.

I’m not a crowd analyst, but there were probably 500 people in the park, which was ringed with journalists doing tv, radio, and print reporting and someone on the stage inviting the crowd to stand up for liberty. It only took me a second to scan some outrageous signs to figure out that this was the Tea Party gathering. The words from the stage were incendiary, but focused on the government’s requiring us to buy health insurance as a slippery slope toward making us buy particular types of clothing, food, and cars. While part of me wanted to find some reasonable people to befriend and comfort with the truth of the Massachusetts experience, I decided not to spend too much time in the crowd, as I wouldn’t want to add to the park police’s estimate.

More to come tomorrow as the court holds the two final sessions on the Affordable Care Act.
-Amy Whitcomb Slemmer

March 27, 2012

I want you all to meet Mary Flynn from Brewster, Massachusetts. Awhile back, she called our HelpLine because she was having problems with COBRA and needed health insurance. As the Supreme Court takes a closer look at Massachusetts’s health reform, folks across the nation want to know: has it worked? Mary is here to tell you: absolutely. Yesterday, she was highlighted in Bloomberg News because she was helped by Massachusett’s health reform law:

Flynn, a public relations executive in Boston, left her job in February 2011 to start her own company. She signed up for COBRA health insurance from her former employer, whom she declined to name, as she was leaving. In August, she got a “very terse letter” from the company telling her it had dropped her coverage in May, after an address error on her June invoice caused her to inadvertently miss a payment.

Inhaler Costs
Flynn has asthma and uses a drug inhaler, Advair (GSK), that costs $210 a month retail through drugstore.com. She paid $60 a month for it through her COBRA plan, before it was canceled. She then turned to the Massachusetts Health Connector, the state’s insurance exchange created in 2006 under Romney.
“I felt like they threw me a lifeline,” she said, adding that her inhaler now costs her just $3.50 a month. “It’s the best insurance I’ve ever had.”

That’s a great story. But what makes Mary’s story even better is what Bloomberg didn’t talk about. After she got health insurance by calling our HelpLine, I got in touch with her to see if she wanted to get involved with our campaigns at HCFA. Turns out, she did – in a big way. Mary called her state representative to ask him to support our efforts to restore oral health benefits for folks on Mass Health. But she didn’t stop there. She hosted a house party in Brewster and got her friends to share their health care stories and get involved with HCFA. And now, she’s even helping out by sharing her story with major media outlets. That’s how she came to be quoted in Bloomberg.

Mary is part of a growing list of activists who care about HCFA and have been getting involved – by hosting house parties, getting their friends involved, and sharing her story with the media. She’s helping us spread the word and build our power at the grassroots level.

If you want to get involved with HCFA, contact me at Afertig@hcfama.org – we are always looking for more folks willing to share their story. If you’ve been helped by health reform, let us know! Drop a note in the comments or shoot me an e-mail. We want to hear from you!
--Ari Fertig

March 25, 2012

National health reform is good for MA

A bit over two years ago, we linked to a blog post by Senator Kerry, listing the numerous benefits from the national health reform law, then pending in the House.

Now, on the second anniversary of the law's enactment, Senator Kerry is back with HuffPo post on how health reform is helping Massachusetts, and the role our 2006 reform played in getting there:

None of this national change would have been possible if Massachusetts hadn't paved the way and provided the model for reform. We took a moral imperative and showed the nation it was achievable. Now, as we approach the sixth anniversary of reform in Massachusetts, our coverage rates are the best in the country -- 98 percent of people have health insurance, including 99.8 percent of kids. We've made coverage affordable to low-income folks, maximized enrollment in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), ensured that individuals and employers pay their fair share, and created a health insurance exchange so consumers can comparison shop for health insurance. Contrary to ideological bluster, which forecasted that reform would erode private health insurance, employer-based coverage has grown in Massachusetts even as it has declined in most states. In Massachusetts, 76 percent of employers now offer coverage; the national average is just 60 percent.

What we accomplished nationally is also good for Massachusetts. It's bringing us substantial federal assistance over the next decade to sustain and strengthen MassHealth programs. We're already seeing the results. Massachusetts has already received nearly $190 million in federal funding to build our health care workforce, crack down on fraud and support public health -- including $73 million in grants to our community health centers. Thanks to the new health care law, over 20,000 young adults in Massachusetts gained insurance coverage because they were allowed to stay on their parent's plan until they turned 26. Nearly 71,000 seniors in the Bay State received help with their prescription drug costs because we closed Medicare's unfair prescription drug donut hole. Because of the law's emphasis on prevention, over 780,000 Medicare beneficiaries in our state received free preventive services -- such as mammograms and colonoscopies -- or a free annual wellness visit with their doctor. And in 2011, 1.3 million Massachusetts residents with private health insurance gained access to preventive services without any out-of-pocket cost.

Two years later, I look back on that vote and I know we did the right thing -- and the proof is in the peoples' lives that are better now and millions more that will be better for it in the years to come. ... Ultimately, it's hard to argue with reality. If you want to see that health reform can work, come to Massachusetts. And if you want to see it work in America, just wait, because the best is still to come.

Thanks, Senator.
-Brian Rosman

March 23, 2012

Today marks the second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act.

In Massachusetts

March 21, 2012

With the second anniversary of the ACA and the Supreme Court challenge coming up, the media are focused on every angle of national health reform. We know that real life stories are often the best way to communicate reality, and NPR did a great job on Tuesday bringing us two similar people from Texas and Massachusetts. Similar, except that the Massachusetts person has good, affordable health coverage.

The stories, One Nation, Two Health Care Extremes is built off of two reporters, one from each state. In Houston, Carrie Feibel introduces us to what it's like for someone in a state with 25% of residents uninsured.

CARRIE FEIBEL: More than six million Texans have no health coverage - government or private. That often means an anxious scramble for care at overcrowded charity clinics or the emergency room.

One of those six million works here, at the Faith Christian Academy. It's a private school located just a few miles south of Houston's refinery row. You can't see the petrochemical plants, but you can sometimes smell them. Melinda Maarouf is a teacher's aide.

... Maarouf is 55, divorced, with one daughter in college. The school can't afford to bring her on full time right now, so she makes just over $11,000 a year. That's right around the federal poverty line, and that means hard choices when it comes to her health. Maarouf has hypertension, and she says there have been times when she skipped pills to make them last longer.

MAAROUF: I can always tell when my blood pressure is elevated. I feel uncomfortable. I feel edgy and kind of shaky, and my ears ring.

FEIBEL: Maarouf knows that if she doesn't control her pressure, she could have a stroke, a heart attack or kidney damage. Recently, she found help at a charity clinic called Ibn Sina. She pays only $25 per visit. But Maarouf says the blood pressure is all she can afford to treat right now.

MAAROUF: I haven't had a Pap smear - goodness - I can't even tell you - probably since my daughter was born, and she's 26. And I haven't had a well woman exam, and I'm sure it's time for some routine blood work. But, you know, it's just not in the budget.

FEIBEL: Maarouf has never had a mammogram, and she's continued to push off some needed dental work. Medical bills scare her. In 2010, she went to the emergency room with chest pain. Doctors didn't find anything wrong, but she ended up with $3,000 in bills she couldn't pay.

...Melinda Maarouf is like millions of other working Texans. As long as she's not disabled, she can't get Medicaid, and she's years away from Medicare. Hospitals in Texas spend over $4 billion a year treating uninsured patients like Maarouf. County taxpayers absorb some of the cost, and some get shifted onto insured Texans who end up paying higher premiums for their own coverage. Melinda Maarouf says she feels stuck and exposed.

MAAROUF: It's like you're sort of walking a tightrope or sometimes feel like I'm on the edge of a cliff. As long as everything is status quo and there's no glitches or bumps in the road, I feel OK. But I sometimes feel like I'm one emergency room visit away from a catastrophe.

Meanwhile, in Boston, WBUR's Martha Bebinger tells a much different story:

MARTHA BEBINGER: Peter Brook is one of the 439,000 residents who has coverage as a result of the state law.
...Landscaping is one of the many odd jobs Brook takes on to cover his basic needs. Five years ago, before Massachusetts started offering free and subsidized coverage, he could not afford health insurance or the insulin and needles Brook uses daily to treat his diabetes.

BROOK: When I didn't have health insurance, I'd use a needle for 30 days, like 150 shots or something, and so it gets a little bit dull.

BEBINGER: When Brook had complications related to his diabetes, he didn't have money for care. The worst was a digestive problem that would bring on crippling stomach pain.

BROOK: I would tend to hole up in the fetal position at home and then, over the course of a week or two, my skinny body would lose 25, 30 pounds and then I'd end up looking like a death camp survivor.

BEBINGER: And then there was the time Brook fractured his pinky and set it by taping the broken section to his ring finger. It's still crooked.

Today, Brook has free health insurance and a regular doctor at the South Boston Community Health Center. Brook's only cost is a $3.65 co-pay for prescriptions, which adds up to about $14 a month.

BROOK: I now have good health care so that that is a weight off of my mind. It's been a year and a half since I've been in the hospital and for the first fifty years of my life, I never went six months without having a inpatient hospital stay for one thing or another.

Perhaps rather than thinking about health care reform options as Barack or Mitt, we all should think of the choice as Peter or Melinda.
-Brian Rosman

March 20, 2012

The Massachusetts Health Care Quality and Cost Council will hold its monthly meeting this Wednesday, March 21, 1:30-3:00pm, at the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, 2 Boylston Street, 5th floor, Daley Room. Meetings are open to the public.

Agenda items include: proposed data updates to the My Health Care Options website, update on the All Payer Claims Database, an update from the Statewide Quality Advisory Committee, and updates on the Ad Hoc Committee for the QCC Scorecard.
-Deb Wachenheim

March 16, 2012

The federal health reform website, HealthCare.gov, has a wealth of information about the ACA and implementation.

They just posted a comprehensive state-by-state summary of who has been helped by the implementation of the ACA so far. The Massachusetts page has an impressive catalog of impacts, including a summary of all the federal grant funds Massachusetts has received. Among the highlights:

Providing new coverage options for young adults
Health plans are now required to allow parents to keep their children under age 26 without job-based coverage on their family’s coverage, and, thanks to this provision, 2.5 million young people have gained coverage nationwide. As of June 2011, 20,294 young adults in Massachusetts gained insurance coverage as a result of the new health care law.

Making prescription drugs affordable for seniors
Thanks to the new health care law, 70,524 people with Medicare in Massachusetts received a $250 rebate to help cover the cost of their prescription drugs when they hit the donut hole in 2010. In 2011, 62,831 people with Medicare received a 50 percent discount on their covered brand-name prescription drugs when they hit the donut hole. This discount resulted in an average savings of $587 per person, and a total savings of $36,897,940 in Massachusetts. By 2020, the law will close the donut hole.

Covering preventive services with no deductible or co-pay
In 2011, 780,099 people with Medicare in Massachusetts received free preventive services – such as mammograms and colonoscopies – or a free annual wellness visit with their doctor. And 54 million Americans with private health insurance gained preventive service coverage with no cost-sharing, including 1,324,000 in Massachusetts.

Preventing illness and promoting health
Since 2010, Massachusetts has received $42.7 million in grants from the Prevention and Public Health Fund created by the Affordable Care Act. This new fund was created to support effective policies in Massachusetts, its communities, and nationwide so that all Americans can lead longer, more productive lives.

Increasing support for community health centers
The Affordable Care Act increases the funding available to community health centers in all 50 states, including the 292 existing community health center sites in Massachusetts. Health centers in Massachusetts have received $73.3 million to create new health center sites in medically underserved areas, enable health centers to increase the number of patients served, expand preventive and primary health care services, and support major construction and renovation projects.

Strengthening partnerships with Massachusetts
The law gives states support for their work to build the health care workforce, crack down on fraud, and support public health.  So far, Massachusetts has received more than $189.6 million from the Affordable Care Act. (Note: Details on the Commonwealth's grants are on the state site, mass.gov/nationalhealthreform)

March 15, 2012

Essential Health Benefits State officials have begun the process of determining which health plan will serve as the essential health benefits (EHB) benchmark plan for Massachusetts. The EHB refers to the set of services that many health plans will be required to cover beginning in 2014 pursuant to §1302 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It applies to all non-grandfathered health plans in the individual and small group markets sold both inside and outside of Exchanges, as well as to Medicaid benchmark plans.

Guidance released by the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in December directs each state to select a benchmark plan that will serve as the reference point for EHBs in that state.  The federal Bulletin specifies the following options for selecting a benchmark plan: 1) the largest small group plan in one of the three largest small group products in the state, by enrollment; 2) one of the three largest state employee health plans by enrollment; 3) one of the three largest federal employee health plan options by enrollment; or 4) the largest HMO plan offered in the state’s commercial market by enrollment. While the ACA establishes that the EHB must include benefits for ten broad categories of benefits (including mental health and substance use disorder services, prescription drugs, preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management, and pediatric services, including oral and vision care for children), the guidance leaves states with the discretion to adopt, within certain parameters, their own definition of the EHB.

The Division of Insurance (DOI) recently compiled a comprehensive chart comparing benefit information for ten different plans that may be considered as benchmark plan options for Massachusetts. The chart provides a detailed comparison of hospital, emergency room and ambulatory services. While the DOI has not yet determined the relative value and cost-impact of the plans, this information will also be made available in comparing plans.

Over the next few months, the Insurance Market Reform Work Group, co-chaired by the Health Connector and the DOI, is hosting a series of open meetings to solicit feedback on designating the EHB, the first of which was held on March 9 at the DOI.  While the Work Group has outlined some initial questions for stakeholder feedback, the dialogue will be an ongoing process and the group is welcoming written comments as well as feedback during future scheduled meetings.

We appreciate the opportunity for stakeholder feedback throughout the decision-making process and urge the Administration to additionally consider soliciting feedback from the general public in the form of a public hearing shortly after their proposal is released. While most of the differences between the potential benchmark plans are subtle, the selection of an EHB benchmark plan will determine the minimum coverage benefits for all individual and small group plans in Massachusetts and thus will be crucial to ensuring access to comprehensive and robust coverage for thousands of consumers statewide.
-Alyssa Vangeli and Suzanne Curry

March 15, 2012

MSNBC guest host Ezra Klein had a good story last night on Romney's political dilemma, featuring economist and Connector Board member Jonathan Gruber. As evidence spreads of the success of Massachusetts health reform, Romney can't acknowledge or take credit for the results. There's no mention of chapter 58 or "RomneyCare" anywhere on Romney's web pages.

Watch:

MSNBC report on Massachusetts health refom success

March 14, 2012

The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation has just released its fifth Health Reform Toolkit. This final toolkit of the series (pdf) focuses on education, outreach, and enrollment strategies that helped usher in Massachusetts health reform’s success of covering over 98% of its residents.

After passage of Chapter 58, state agencies created a statewide, coordinated outreach strategy that was guided by two imperatives: 1) to build on—and leverage—existing functions, systems, and resources to the greatest extent possible and 2) to identify and utilize all available channels and “agents” in reaching individuals and families newly eligible for expanded health care coverage programs created by the law.

The toolkit underscores the importance of partnering with – and providing resources to – community-based organizations to assist residents in enrolling in and maintaining coverage and connecting them to care. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the ongoing complex redetermination process, and the continued impact of the recent economic recession, the need for this work continues.

That’s why one of HCFA and the ACT!! Coalition’s top priorities is to restore funding for the MassHealth Outreach & Access to Care grants (see our factsheet, pdf) in the FY13 budget.

Without this funding, many community-based grantees are being forced to lay off staff, reduce services, or shut down all together, negatively impacting the economy and our ability to ensure that residents continue to receive proper assistance navigating the complex health insurance system.
-Suzanne Curry

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