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House Debates Budget Amendments: Here's Our List of Priorities

House Debates Budget Amendments: Here's Our List of Priorities

April 28, 2015

The state House of Representatives began its budget debate yesterday, for fiscal year 2016, which starts on July 1. Over 1000 amendments have been filed (see the budget and amendments here).

As usual in the House, the amendments are being considered in groupings by subject matter. The health care bundle is expected to come up tomorrow or Thursday. Tonight, a group of HCFA citizen activists will fan out across the State House, meeting with Representatives to discuss HCFA's priorities. Here's some of our top amendents for support in the budget - we urge you to contact your Representative today on these:

Oral Health

MassHealth only provides a limited dental benefit to adults. More than 800,000 people, including 120,000 seniors and 180,000 people with disabilities, are without access to dental care beyond cleanings, fillings, extractions, and full dentures.  Left untreated, dental disease can lead to systemic infection, hospitalization, and in the worst cases, death.  No one should die because of a toothache.

  • Support Rep. Scibak’s amendment (#298) to fund full restoration of MassHealth adult dental benefits. 
  • Oppose Rep. Jones amendment (#296) to allow restrictions on MassHealth adult dental benefits

Individuals living with disabilities have particular oral health needs, including adaptive facilities and equipment, as well as providers with specialized training.  The Tufts University School of Dental Medicine partners with the state to operate the Tufts Dental Facilities (TDF), which provide oral health care for persons living with disabilities in sites across the Commonwealth.  Budget cuts to DPH’s Office of Oral Health since 2008 have made the continued viability of the TDF precarious. 

  • Support Rep. Scibak’s amendment (#291) to allocate $500,000 in additional resources that will allow TDF to provide much-needed dental services

Prescription Drugs

Faced with an overwhelming amount of new clinical research, health care providers often rely on pharmaceutical sales representatives for information about medications they prescribe. This can result in higher costs for patients and the Commonwealth, as representatives promote their newest, most expensive brand-name drugs. “Academic Detailing” provides independent, evidence-based information on prescription drugs, supporting doctors in making the best decisions for their patients, based on balanced data rather than biased promotional information.

  • Support Rep. Benson’s amendment (#734) to provide $500,000 for DPH’s evidence-based prescriber education program.

Children’s Health

Early Intervention is the state’s most cost-effective program in the Commonwealth dedicated to serving children from birth to three years with developmental delays and disabilities. The program has a remarkable track record of limiting the need for more expensive, less effective services in later years with more than $27 million in special education savings attributed to EI services. The program serves more than 35,000 children and families each year through 60 Early Intervention programs statewide.

  • Support Rep. Kafka’s amendment (#686) to provide $28.4 million for Early Intervention services.

Health Reform

Today, federal revenue to Massachusetts due to our expanded health care coverage programs now goes into the broad General Fund. Establishing a segregated, distinct MassHealth and Healthcare Reform FMAP Trust Fund will provide a foundation to ensure that new Affordable Care Act federal Medicaid funding is used for MassHealth and subsidized health insurance programs. A robust trust fund would ensure resources for services to low-income residents, support providers, and provide transparency in how the federal funds are spent.

  • Support Rep. Benson’s amendment (#614) to establish the MassHealth and Healthcare Reform Trust Fund.