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Legislature Moving Towards Partial Legal Immigrant Funding. What's Next?

Legislature Moving Towards Partial Legal Immigrant Funding. What's Next?

July 30, 2009

The State House was up late tonight, as the legislature worked on a supplemental funding bill that funds a number of items vetoed by the Governor, including adding partial funding for legal immigrants eligible for Commonwealth Care.

The final bill passed around 11:30 tonight. Explanatory materials distributed by the House today are here, and the original bill as filed is here.

As reported, the bill increases Commonwealth Care funding by $40 million, and permits the Secretary of HHS and the Connector to devise a plan to cover the 30,000 eligible legal immigrants that does not exceed $40 million. Full Commonwealth Care for this many people would cost around $130 million, so this is far less than the cost of full benefits. The Governor had proposed a compromise to spend $70 million for these people. If no plan can be devised, the $40 million can be added to the Health Safety Net Trust Fund, which reimburses hospitals and community health centers for free care provided to low income uninsured.

There is no plan on the table for how to implement a meaningful health coverage plan for roughly 1/3 of the projected cost of coverage. The ACT!! coalition will be working with the state officials to identify options and make recommendations. Should only a portion of the low-income immigrants be provided adequate coverage? Or should severely inadequate coverage be provided to everyone who qualifies?

One outcome of this should be a strong, concerted effort by state leaders to push for federal reimbursement for all legal immigrants as part of national health reform. We urge the leadership of the legislature to join us in asking Senator Kerry to make this issue one of his priorities as the Finance Committee takes up its bill soon.

The supplemental appropriations also restores some funding for the Evidence Based Outreach and Enrollment program (Academic Detailing), line item 4510-0716 in the supplemental budget passed today. We are grateful for their support of this important program, which will provide immediate savings. We urge the Governor to maintain funding for this program, which he vetoed in the main budget.

The state-sponsored evidence-based outreach and education program (often referred to as “Academic Detailing”) will provide health care providers with balanced information about the effectiveness, safety and costs of all prescription drugs on which they can base their prescribing decisions. The program will give consumers the peace of mind that the drug they are prescribed is the most appropriate drug for them and that the decision of what to prescribe is based on unbiased evidence, not the result of the inappropriate influence of the pharmaceutical industry. Research shows that these programs can save two to three dollars for every dollar spent to implement them.

Additionally, the bill allocates an additional $350,000 for the Department of Public Health’s division of health disease prevention, which includes support for the Betsy Lehman Center. The Betsy Lehman Center was launched in 2004 and serves as a clearinghouse for the development, evaluation, and dissemination, including of best practices for patient safety and medical error reduction. With payment reform in the offing, the work of the Betsy Lehman Center is more critical then ever.