A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Found money! - Help Seniors!

Found money! - Help Seniors!

February 20, 2010

The federal government announced that Massachusetts will no longer be required to make $132.7 million in scheduled payments to offset the cost of Medicare prescription drug coverage for those who are eligible for Medicare and Medicaid.  Check out the Globe story here. This money can provide enormous fiscal relief to Massachusetts through the end of 2010. 

We agree with AARP State Director, Deborah Banda in calling for this money to “trickle down to those who face the greatest health care needs.”  This new money should be used to restore funding to critical health programs in the Commonwealth for FY10 and FY11. For example, the state plans to cut out $56 million in MassHealth dental benefits for seniors and other adults, which only saves the state $22 million, since we have to share any savings with the federal government. But also, the elimination of some dental benefits will lead to increased demand for dental care through the Health Safety Net program, the former free care pool. The state is budgeting an extra $11 million to cover these costs. So the net savings from eliminating $56 million in dental benefits to 600,000 seniors and adults on MassHealth is around $11 million.

Given that the money is a refund for Medicare prescription drug use, we believe it proper that some of the money be used to restore funding to the Prescription Advantage program (read this blog post for more on Prescription Advantage cuts).  We echo AARP in asking that the Legislature and the Administration use the funds to restore

“$5.6 million in funding to Prescription Advantage.  This infusion will reverse last year’s emergency 9C cuts, bring Prescription Advantage funding back to its original Fiscal Year 2010 level of $40 million, and most importantly, allow benefits – specifically premium assistance – to be reinstated for more than 44,000 older Massachusetts residents.”

Massachusetts seniors need the kind of relief that this money can provide.
-Georgia Maheras