September 2014

September 24, 2014

Two wothwhile events coming up:

First up, this Thursday, is the Western Massachusetts Health Equity Summit

Western Mass Health Equity Summit

The meeting is organized by our friends at Baystate Health, along with Springfield’s Department of Health and Human Services, the Mason Square Task Force, the Mass DPH, the Massachusetts Public Health Association, and the University Mass Amherst School of Public Health. Many other groups throughout the region are also participating. The keynote speaker is Amanda Maria Navarro, the Deputy Director of PolicyLink. Dr. Navarro is a leading health equity and policy expert and coordinates the Convergence Partnership funders’ collaborative. Click here for more information, or to register.

Later in the month is the annual meeting of the Mass Public Health Association, on October 17:

MPHA annual Meeting

MPHA plays a critical role in promoting better health in Massachusetts, and their annual meeting is always a great experience. More information is here.

        - Brian Rosman

September 23, 2014

From a new Census Bureau report on uninsurance rates in the 25 largest metropolitan areas:

Boston has the lowest uninsurance rate of any city in the US

(UPDATE: Here's how the website Vox.com reported on the chart:)   

Miami has 5 times more uninsured than Boston  

- Brian Rosman

Health Care For All new logo - blue Massachusetts red Health Care For All text
September 19, 2014

It’s fall and that means it’s a season of change. Health Care For All is moving its office. After September 20th, you can find us at One Federal Street, Boston, 02110! 

We are also opening our celebration of the 30th Anniversary of Health Care For All. The anniversary has us reflect on some of the major victories that Health Care For All has won over the course of three decades. Again and again, the work of HCFA has led Massachusetts to lead the country in health care:

The universal coverage law in 1988 under Governor Dukakis. The expansions in Medicaid to form MassHealth, and new help for prescription drugs for seniors. Patient protections in managed care plans, and ending pre-existing conditions exclusions for groups and individual plans. More kids enrolled in coverage. Landmark health care reform under Governor Romney, providing a model for the Affordable Care Act signed by President Obama. The 2012 comprehensive payment and delivery system reform law, changing the focus of our system towards value and health.

We are proud of this week's census report that we still lead the nation in health coverage, including virtually universal coverage for children.

The policy victories have been coordinated with a best-in-the-nation HelpLine and outreach and education effort, integrated with our policy work.

We have come a long, long way in 30 years. But, there's still lots more to do.

To mark this occasion, and to mark our move, today we are unveiling a brand new logo.

Our new logo reflects the Massachusetts focus of the work we do to bring quality, affordable health care to all people in the Bay State. We are a truly statewide organization. We help answer questions from all corners of the Commonwealth on our HelpLine. This fall we will again knock on doors to reach out to hundreds of thousands of our neighbors to make sure they get covered.

Today, the 30 Winter Street team of Health Care For All, Health Law Advocates, and Community Catalyst are busy packing up to move to One Federal Street. Our phone numbers and emails will stay the same. And so will our determination to work for three more decades of health care advocacy, education and service for access to quality, affordable care - for all.

September 17, 2014

HCFA has submitted detailed comments to the state court reviewing the proposed settlement agreement concerning the acqusition by Partners HealthCare of hospitals and physician practices north and south of Boston. 

Our comments start from the premise that the settlement ought to be considered as a question of public policy, and not just a legal issue:

The provision of health care services is not treated as an ordinary, private commodity by the public or the Commonwealth. Health care is an intensely public good. 

Thus, we urge the Court to treat the issues raised by the proposed settlement as part of the public policy process of Massachusetts. This demands that the issues covered by the agreement be subject to widespread and transparent public scrutiny. Accountable public officials must have an opportunity to investigate and make judgments about the impact of various consequences of the transactions and restrictions the Court is being asked to judge.

In our comments, we raise issues of access to behavioral health services, the impact on safety net institutions, and if the acquistion could affect availability of providers for low-income patients in MassHealth or health programs through the Health Connector. We also include comments about how quality of care could be affected.

We call on the revised settlement agreement to go before the Health Policy Commission, so a broad public analysis can occur.

Our comments are available on the Attorney General's website, here. All of the other comments filed are now online, here. Most of the comments are from other providers, or people affiliated with the communities affected. Several academics have weighed in, including Alan Sager at BU, Nancy Kane and Nancy Turnbull of Harvard, Katherine Swartz of Harvard, and a group of academic economists.  A large number of individuals have also added their thoughts, some quite eloquent. Other consumer groups that have commented include the American Antitrust Institute, MassPIRG,  National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO), and the co-chairs of Disability Advocates Advancing our Healthcare Rights.

As the next week's court hearing on the issue gets closer, we hope the consumer voices will weigh strong in the process.

   -Brian Rosman 

Massachusetts has the most insured in the country
September 16, 2014

Today the Census Bureau released its annual insurance coverage data, covering 2013

The Mass Budget and Policy Center has the results: We still lead the nation in coverage.

Their conclusions:

  • In 2013, 96.3 percent of the state's population is covered by health insurance. This is essentially the same as last year, which estimated coverage at 96.1 percent. Massachusetts continues to lead the nation in health care coverage.
  • There were still approximately 247,000 people in 2013 lacking health insurance throughout the Commonwealth.  The state estimates however, that more than 100,000 people without health insurance will receive new publicly-subsidized health care coverage in 2014 and 2015. Our state's implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act will bring Massachusetts a long way towards filling the gap.
  • We also lead the country in children's coverage, with 98.5% of all children with health insurance. MassBudget's research for the Kids Count program has shown that children in Massachusetts fare better than in much of the rest of the nation as measured by various health indicators including health insurance coverage.

Check out the detailed notes on the report by Mass Budget, including the survey methodology, comparability, and statiscal margin of error.

And Mass Budget also just released its comprehensive summary of the Fiscal Year 2015 budget for MassHealth, the Health Connector and other health programs. Their series of  budget briefs, produced with the Mass Medicaid Policy Institute and the Mass Law Reform Institute, are the definitive source for health care budget information.

   - Brian Rosman

September 15, 2014

Connector Outreach Campaign Summary 9-11-14

Last Thursday, the Connector Board received updates on the progress on the eligibility and enrollment system and website, approved the Connector’s Fall 2014 Open Enrollment outreach plan and voted to approve the final 2015 Seal of Approval. With 65 days until the start of open enrollment, which runs from November 15, 2014 through February 15, 2015, this is a crucial time for each of these activities.

Materials from the meeting can be found on the Connector’s website, under About – Leadership – Board Meetings. The update on the enrollment and eligibility system is here, and the outreach and education presentation is here. Our detailed report is just a click away.

September 12, 2014

The Daily Show looks for the victims of Obamacare

 

The Daily Show looks for the victims of Obamacare, and finds some. Watch here.

HPC Conclusions on Partners/Hallmark CMIR 9-3-14
September 7, 2014

The Health Policy Commission (HPC) met on Wednesday, September 3, 2014 with a packed agenda covering topics such as the upcoming Cost Trends Hearings, their Final Report on the Partners proposed acquisition of Hallmark Health, new legislation affecting the HPC, and the CHART Investment Program. The detailed meeting slides are online and and takes just a click below to find our summary of the highlights and discussion points.

September 2, 2014

CHIA Chart: "In contrast to the previous trend ofpremium increases paired with decliningbenefit value, premiums and benefitlevels remained virtually unchanged, andmember cost-sharing did not increasefrom 2012 to 2013."

 

This morning, CHIA releases its "Annual Report on the Performance of the Massachusetts Health Care System." Lots of data to ponder, argue about and draw implications from. The Globe is on the story, with a somewhat negative frame ("Spending on health care rises in Mass / Agency ties increase to outlays by giants Blue Cross, Partners"), while WBUR is more positive ("A First-Year Victory In The Mass. Fight To Control Health Costs").  And there's the Herald, too.

The report will be posted at 11:00 am is posted on the CHIA website, along with a technical appendix, chartbook, and data spreadsheets. Here's CHIA's conclusions:

Conclusion of 2014 CHIA report