May 2019

May 23, 2019

Last Saturday, Health Care For All (HCFA), in partnership with the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA), the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) and Health Law Advocates (HLA), implemented a training under the title “Democracy School 2019: Building Health Care Power in Immigrant Communities”. Even though it was a beautiful day in Boston, 35 people - including advocates, community leaders and members, immigration and medical providers - chose to spend their Saturday attending the session and learning more about the struggles our immigrant communities face to live productive and healthy lives in the current environment. 

This session was part of a coordinated, ongoing effort to inform immigrants and the groups that serve them about their health care rights. It also aimed to dispel the growing fear and mistrust within immigrant communities that is preventing many individuals and families from seeking the health care services they need - when they need them.

The training went over important topics that combine immigration and health care such as: immigrants’ health care rights, the state of immigrants in Massachusetts and state efforts to protect them, immigrant eligibility for health insurance, how to apply for health insurance, understanding the proposed rule on “pubic charge” and other potentially damaging policies impacting immigrants’ use of benefits, and how to access and navigate the immigrant health toolkit. The evaluations were very positive, participants were very engaged and had interesting questions regarding the topics laid out.Thank you Liza Ryan (MIRA), Vicky Pulos (MLRI), Justin Lowe (HLA), 

HCFA is committed to ensure that all participants have access to the resources they need to provide accurate information to our immigrant communities regarding their health care rights. Many of the attendees submitted written questions that we are currently working on getting appropriate answers for. We will upload all the documents - presentations, fact sheets and Q&As - on the immigrant health toolkit on https://www.hcfama.org/immigrant-health  in the next weeks. Feel free to reach out to Rosana Gijsen at rgijsen@hcfama.org if you have more inquiries that were not addressed during the session or if you want to get involved in the Immigrant Health Care Access Project (IHAP).  

 

May 21, 2019

MassHealth – the state’s combined Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) – is a cornerstone of the Massachusetts health coverage system, providing coverage of medical, behavioral health and community-based services for 1.8 million low-income Massachusetts residents. MassHealth enrollees are often characterized by a narrow set of baseline statistics; however, MassHealth enrollees represent a diverse range of life experiences and health care needs.

MassHealth serves our most vulnerable residents across their life spans from infants and children with special needs who gain access to comprehensive health care and support services required to reach their full potential, to the elderly and those living with disabilities who receive community-based care that helps them remain in their home. MassHealth provides health insurance to more than 1 in 4 Massachusetts residents, including: more than half of the population with disabilities; more than 40% of all children; and 3 out of 5 people in low-income families.

Health Care For All is proud to partner with Manatt Health and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA) Foundation on a new publication, Faces of MassHealth: Portrait of a Diverse Population. This detailed set of data and narrative profiles of MassHealth enrollees illustrate the different life circumstances that lead people to MassHealth, and the various ways that MassHealth touches their lives.

Key findings from the quantitative portion of this project include:

  • The geographic distribution of MassHealth members mirrors that of the Commonwealth’s population.
  • The vast majority of MassHealth enrollees have very low incomes, well below the poverty level.
  • Women account for more than half of all adults and nearly two-thirds of seniors enrolled in MassHealth.
  • Unstable housing is a problem for more than 1 in 10 MassHealth enrollees.
  • Children, seniors and people with disabilities make up 60% of the MassHealth population.
  • While most MassHealth enrollees speak English as their primary language, a substantial minority do not.
  • The MassHealth population is racially and ethnically diverse, but more than 6 in 10 enrollees self-identify as white.

In addition to the quantitative analysis, the qualitative portion of the report includes five journalistic profiles of MassHealth enrollees. Health Care For All extends gratitude to Jessica, Anne, Kristal and Sal, Angela and Massimo, and Amy, for sharing their stories, which made this project possible. Special thanks go to Natalie Litton, Health Care For All’s former Policy and Policy Coordinator, who led this section of the project, undertaking extensive outreach efforts, conducting interviews, and writing the five journalistic profiles contained in the report.

We hope this report will help policymakers and other stakeholders better understand the breadth and diversity of the individuals and families across the Commonwealth who rely on MassHealth coverage in order to access the health care they need. Faces of MassHealth points to the critical work of protecting and sustaining the MassHealth program over the long term, to ensure that the program is available to Massachusetts residents from all walks of life who need it.

May 15, 2019
Prescription drug prices continue to rise, placing a considerable burden on families and the state's budget. Over the past five years, prescription drug spending has nearly doubled in MassHealth, twice the rate of other spending in the program.
 
The Senate Ways and Means Committee recently included strong language in their proposed FY20 budget that would give MassHealth critical new tools to negotiate lower prices for unreasonably priced drugs.
 
Senator Boncore has filed an amendment that would significantly weaken this provision. Amendment #654 would keep drug price negotiations behind closed doors and prevent MassHealth from being able to hold drug manufacturers accountable.
 
Drug manufacturers should be able to make a profit on their life-saving products, but patients and the state should understand how much these drugs cost and be able to negotiate a fair price. Drugs only work if people can afford to buy them.
 
Beginning next week, the Senate will hold its budget debate. Please call or email your Senator this week to urge them to oppose Amendment #654 and maintain their commitment to address rapidly rising drug costs.
 
Find out who your Senator is and their contact information hereand you can use the email and call scripts below. 
 
We appreciate you taking action on this critical issue to address high drug costs in the MassHealth program. Please contact Yaminah Romulus at yromulus@hcfama.org or 617-275-2935 if you have questions about how to oppose this amendment.
 
Thank you,
Yaminah 
 
Phone Script Opposing Amendment #654:
 
Hi, my name is ______.
 
May 9, 2019

Just as the mouth is part of the body, oral health is a part of overall health. People cannot be healthy unless they have access to the dental services they need.When dental disease is left untreated it can lead to systemic infection, hospitalization, and the worsening of other medical conditions. For years, Health Care For All has worked on issues related to oral health, including public awareness about the importance of oral health, and access to comprehensive dental care for everyone.

 

Last Tuesday, HCFA and our allies in the Oral Health Advocacy Taskforce took to Beacon Hill to testify before the Joint Committee on Public Health in support of An Act to Improve Oral Health For All Massachusetts Residents (S.1215/H.1916) legislation that authorizes an additional dental professional, called the dental therapist, to work with a dentist to provide oral health care to more people. HCFA also testified on behalf of An Act Relative to the Restoration of MassHealth Adult Dental Benefits (S. 1212/H. 1917) A bill that will restore full MassHealth dental benefits to more than 1 million individuals, including over 113,000 seniors and 230,000 people living with disabilities. HCFA also provided key testimony to the committee in support of An Act to Promote Public Health Through the Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund (S. 1293/H. 2012) This bill would maintain the solvency of the Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund (PWTF) which funded successful clinical-community partnerships focused on childhood asthma, falls among older adults, hypertension, and tobacco use.

 

The room at the hearing was packed on Tuesday. A wide range of stakeholders, including: The Better Oral Health in Massachusetts Coalition, the MassLeague of Community Health Centers, the Mass Dental Hygienists Association, the Forsyth Institute, Massachusetts Senior Action Council, Rosie’s Place, and the ARC of Massachusetts, to name a few, testified in support of the two oral health bills.

HCFA’s Oral Health Program Director, Dr. Neetu Singh, led the charge in providing expert testimony for both bills. Dr Singh made the case that restoring full MassHealth adult dental benefits would not only benefit the Commonwealth’s oral health, but the state’s financial health as well, pointing out that patients who have to skip the dentist’s office are far more likely to end up in the emergency room. Dr. Singh shared research showing that MassHealth members disproportionately use the Emergency Department (ED) for preventable oral health conditions at a cost 4-7 times that of a community-based dental office visit. In just one year, there were over 36,000 preventable oral health ED visits in Massachusetts, costing the health care system between $15 million and $36 million.