A Healthy Blog

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

Hope Yet for Health Safety Net

Hope Yet for Health Safety Net

March 25, 2016

Safety Net

Yesterday, the legislature began a process to extend a temporary reprieve to low-income residents concerned about planned cuts to their access to health care.

Last month, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) proposed changes to regulations governing the Health Safety Net (HSN) program. The HSN provides payments to hospitals and community health centers (CHCs) for providing care to low-income uninsured and underinsured Massachusetts residents. The program is primarily funded by an assessment on hospitals and insurers.

The proposed changes would significantly impact both the Commonwealth’s residents who rely on the program and providers who care for these residents by:

  • Reducing overall eligibility from 400% of the federal poverty level (FPL) to 300% FPL;
  • Charging deductibles for HSN users at or above 150% FPL (instead of 200% FPL); and
  • Limiting retroactive coverage to 10 days prior to application (instead of 6 months).

These cuts were scheduled to take effect on April 1, but are now being delayed until June 1 thanks to advocacy efforts. Also, the Governor’s proposed FY2017 state budget also does not include the customary $30 million investment in the HSN program.

Consumer advocates, hospitals and CHCs testified at the public hearing on February 26th in opposition to these changes. You can read the ACT!! Coalition’s comments here.

Dozens of legislators have also taken up the fight to preserve current HSN rules and funding. Yesterday, the Senate unanimously voted to approve an amendment to a FY2016 supplemental budget bill to preserve current HSN eligibility rules through June 30, 2016. The bill now must be reconciled with a House version that does not include the HSN provision, before enactment in both chambers.

We urge the Legislature to include this amendment in the final version of the FY2016 supplemental budget and the Administration to accept the budget language, and reconsider the proposed changes to the HSN program.

              -- Suzanne Curry