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Health Reform: Bill Signing Eve Developments and Prognostications

Health Reform: Bill Signing Eve Developments and Prognostications

April 11, 2006

Health reform legislation will be signed by Gov. Romney tomorrow at 11am as Sen. Kennedy, House Speaker DiMasi, and Sen. Pres. Travaglini look on in historic Faneuil Hall. Sources tell us to expect the following:

-- The Gov. will sign the full bill, and will make no mention of vetoes or amendments; he will submit a veto message later in the day. Does not want to rain on his own parade. And issuing vetoes detracts from his assertion that the legislature passed "his" health reform bill.

-- Likely vetoes will include: a. the $295 employer assessment; and b. restoration of MassHealth benefits that were cut in 2002, including adult dental, dentures, eyeglasses, and some prosthetic devices. 600,000 poor adults. We fully expect speedy override of these vetoes.

-- In spite of earlier reports, Gov. will not veto funding for Boston Medical Center and Cambridge Health Alliance (see today's Globe for a good report on health reform and BMC/CHA).

-- The Gov. may file a bill of "technical corrections" later on to address a variety of smaller issues left unaddressed or ambiguous in the reform statute.

Outside the Hall will be a bevy of groups attacking the new reform law from the left, including AFL-CIO, Jobs with Justice, and MassCare.

HCFA and ACT Coalition will be inside, not to salute the Governor, but to salute the Legislature for crafting a law that will result in:

1. Expansion in affordable insurance coverage for hundreds of thousands of uninsured Massachusetts residents, with the best benefits going to folks at the bottom of the income ladder;

2. Restoration of critical benefits such as adult dental, eyeglasses, and dentures for 600,000 poor adults in MassHealth (120,000 of whom are poor seniors, 180,000 of whom are disabled);

3. Creation of new mechanisms such as the Insurance Connector, merger of small group and non group market, that have the real chance to lower insurance costs for in legitimate ways for hundreds of thousands of folks who want quality for direct subsidies;

4. Establishment of first broad based employer responsibility requirement since Hawaii did it in 1974.

5. New investments in public health prevention and health promotion programs.

6. A host of other innovations such as a Health Disparities Council, a Cost and Quality Council, Medicaid "pay for performance" standards tied to reducing racial and ethnic health disparities, and a lot more.

Are we concerned about the "individual mandate?" Absolutely. Do we have the tools and resources at our disposal to make sure it's done fairly and right? We think so.