A Healthy Blog

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

Watch, and then Call: "There's Nothing More Hurtful And Regressive Than A Budget Cut"

Watch, and then Call: "There's Nothing More Hurtful And Regressive Than A Budget Cut"

May 18, 2009

First, please watch the video below, highlights from today's inspirational, packed "Stop The Cuts" rally at the State House. The speakers include Harris Gruman of SEIU and the Stop the Cuts Coalition; Lisa Wong, Mayor of Fitchburg; John Bennett of Mass Senior Action; and Lynn Norris of Neighbor to Neighbor.

Next, call your State Senator (not sure who that is? look it up here) and urge him or her to support expanded revenues and HCFA's key budget amendments to restore critical health care programs. The Senate will be starting its budget debate on Tuesday.

Among the Senate budget amendments we support are:

Adult Dental Benefits (Amendment EHS 473)
Senator Chandler
Eliminating adult dental benefits from MassHealth and Commonwealth Care will affect nearly 800,000 individuals throughout the state. Oral health is a critical part of overall health - studies show that chronic oral infections are associated with complex health problems such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, low-birth weight, and premature infant births. Approximately one-ninth of Massachusetts’ population will be affected by this cut, including more than 120,000 low-income seniors and 180,000 disabled individuals on MassHealth and 91,000 individuals on Commonwealth Care.

Commonwealth Care Coverage (Amendment EHS 656)
Senator Chang-Diaz
Some 28,000 “special status” legal immigrant adults are enrolled in Commonwealth Care. They pay sliding-scale premiums, and are enrolled in private managed care plans. Coverage for this group, whose health needs was previously covered by episodic coverage via the Uncompensated Care Pool, was a provision of health reform. Ending eligibility for special status immigrants will leave over 28,000 Massachusetts residents without the comprehensive health coverage they need, and increase costs in other programs.

Office of Oral Health (Amendment EHS 465)
Senator Chandler
Line item 4512-0500
This amendment will provide equitable funding the Department of Public Health’s Office of Oral Health to bring needed oral health education and care to children and adults in underserved parts of the state, including dental care for persons with disabilities.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Amendment EHS 500)
Senator Spilka
Line item 5042-5000
This amendment restores funding to the primary account under the Department of Mental Health that provides services to children and young people with behavioral health needs. Included in this line item is funding for the Massachusetts Child Psychiatric Access Project, a model program that provides mental health consultations to pediatricians.

Office of Health Equity (Amendments EHS 597 and EHS 690)
Senator Fargo
Line item 4000-0300
These amendments add language to maintain the Office of Health Equity in the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. The Office of Health Equity oversees comprehensive efforts to eliminate health disparities, providing leadership and coordination of all state agency efforts. The Office is developing interagency disparities initiatives, preparing an annual health disparities report card, and evaluating the effectiveness of interventions.

Children’s Medical Security Plan (Amendment EHS 621)
Senator Eldridge
Outside Section
This amendment standardizes administration of the Children’s Medical Security Plan (CMSP), to bring the program into line with other programs administered by MassHealth. Additionally, it gives EHS the option to reexamine benefits offered under CMSP and to eliminate unrealistic caps on services (such as the currently-mandated $200 annual cap on prescription drugs for children).

DEEC Consultative Mental Health Services (Amendment EHS 617)
Senator Flanagan
Line item 3000-6075
This amendment restores the line item and funding for mental health consultative services to preschools. Massachusetts ranks 9th nationally for the rate of expelling young children from early education settings. Providing behavioral health consultative services has been shown to reduce the rate of expulsions and to reduce special education costs for children the following year in kindergarten.

DPH Quality Programs (Amendment EHS 686)
Senator Fargo
Line item 4510-0710
Last year Massachusetts made huge strides in improving the quality of health care in the Commonwealth by passing Chapter 305. Among its important duties, the Division of Health Care Quality gathers information and issues reports on Serious Reportable Events and infections to help hospitals improve the delivery of health care and save lives. Proposed cuts would slash this program.

Prescription Advantage (Amendment EHS 697)
Senator Montigny
Line Item 9110-1455
This is a state sponsored prescription assistance program for the elderly and some individuals who are disabled. It currently has 64,000 enrollees and this cut will cause 14,600 enrollees to lose their prescription drug assistance that keeps our seniors healthy, independent and out of more expensive care.

FMAP Transparency (Amendment EHS 700)
Senator Montigny
The United States federal government’s economic stimulus package will give states additional money for urgent health care needs. The enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) funds are intended to be invested in MassHealth, health care, and public health. This amendment creates an identifiable, transparent FMAP fund to: secure jobs; maintain health care reform’s achievements; protect essential safety net services; preserve funding for our hospitals and community health centers; and fund cost-effective public health initiatives.

Evidence-based outreach and education program (Amendment EHS 702)
Senator Montigny
Line item 4510-0716
The evidence-based outreach and education program, also referred to as "Academic Detailing" would provide doctors with unbiased evidence to guide them in their prescribing decisions. Such programs have demonstrated to provide immediate savings that far exceed the cost of the program. This amendment restores this cost-saving program.

A detailed list of HCFA-supported amendments are here.