A Healthy Blog

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

MassHealth Waiver Blues

MassHealth Waiver Blues

April 11, 2005

This morning about 250 persons attended a forum in downtown Boston to learn about the new Medicaid "waiver" which will establish funding rules for the program for three years beginning on July 1. The broad outlines of the agreement were announced in late January by Gov. Romney and Sen. Kennedy following their negotiations with the federal Department of Health and Human Services. The Mass. Medicaid Policy Institute, today's forum sponsor, issued a well-done report in layperson language to describe the waiver. Click here to obtain it. Some bottom lines:

* For eight years, waiver funds have been an essential source of funding to expand affordable health coverage. Under the new deal, there is less money, and it's capped.
* Unless key aspects of the agreement are renegotiated with the federal government, the state may lose significant federal revenues.
* The new waiver will require the state to develop a new plan -- albeit with limited funds -- to develop a new access plan by July 1, 2006. This plan will require approval from the feds and the state legislature to move forward.

During the Clinton years, the point of waivers was to give more money to encourage expansion. In the Bush years, the point is to reduce federal funds to states.
Check out today's Paul Krugman column in the New York Times for a health care reality check. The real crisis facing our country is not Social Security, and it's not Medicare or Medicaid, it's health care, and the answers aren't easy.