A Healthy Blog

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

House Budget Debate: Call Now For MassHealth Dental Coverage and Staffing

House Budget Debate: Call Now For MassHealth Dental Coverage and Staffing

April 23, 2013

This week starts the budget process in the state House of Representatives. For the next 3-4 days, the House will deal with some 888 amendments. The full budget and amendments are here.  You can also download the "Amendment Book" which has the amendments summarized and categorized by topic. I counted 49 in the Health and Human Services category, another 27 in the Mental Health and Disabilities category, and 58 in the Public Health category. That's a lot.

HCFA has been working the House aggressively on behalf of a number of amendments. With the inadequate revenue proposal moving in the legislature, the House budget comes up short on health care in many ways. HCFA is supporting a large number of amendments to restore funding and invest in health care.You can see the amendments we are asking Representatives to support here (pdf).

Among our top priorities are two key MassHealth amendments:

  • Restore Dental Care For MassHealth Adults: Cuts to the MassHealth adult dental services in 2010 left over 700,000 people without access to dental care beyond cleanings and extractions, including 120,000 seniors and 180,000 people with disabilities.  Dentists can identify cavities during an examination, but with the exception of a small number of billing codes, fillings are not covered.  Left untreated, a simple cavity can lead to serious medical problems.

Support Amendment #204 (Scibak) to fully restore MassHealth adult dental benefits. 

  • Provide Adequate Administrative Support for MassHealth: Since 2008, MassHealth operations staff has been sharply cut at the same time the number of MassHealth members has risen dramatically, resulting in paperwork processing backlogs, gaps in health coverage, and delays in enrollment.

Support Amendment #158 (Brodeur) to provide $3.3 million for MassHealth operations staff.

The HesterPrynne blog has a good overview of the process, and what to expect on the hot button issues, here. As the post explains, the House budget contains several provisions aimed at "cracking down on fraud and abuse" in welfare programs, and a number of amendments would go even further. Many of them would interfere with or prevent people from getting benefits they need, including health care. We are working with a number of groups to oppose these provisions.

The Mass Public Health Association is supporting a number of public health amendments, listed in their blog post here, including reversing cuts to smoking prevention and cessation services, the successful Mass in Motion program, environmental health and health care quality. We are also lobbying hard on these public health issues, and urge people to work with MPHA to support investments in our public health system.

We are also focusing on mental health parity, on assuring full implementation of the ACA, and health equity. Many of the amendments we are actively supporting can be found here.

We urge our friends to contact their Representative today to voice support for these amendments.