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House Budget An Opportunity To Improve Health in Massachusetts

House Budget An Opportunity To Improve Health in Massachusetts

April 18, 2016

Last week, the state House of Representatives unveiled their draft proposed budget for fiscal year 2017 (which begins this July 1). Like the Governor's proposal, the House budget proposes spending just under $40 billion, with about $15.4 billion going to MassHealth, a increase of below 5% (note that in figuring the cost to the state for MassHealth, one needs to subtract from the $15.4 million appropriation the some $7 billion in federal Medicaid revenue that we receive as a result of our MassHealth program). The budget proposes no major cuts in eligibility or benefits for MassHealth, though it also does not restore adult dental benefits eliminated a number of years ago. A major House initiative funds expanded steps to combat opiate abuse, with a 65% increase in funding for these services over the past 5 years.

Representatives have proposed over 1300 amendments to the budget, which will be voted on the week of April 25. HCFA is supporting a number of these amendments. We urge you to contact your Representative and urge support for the amendments on this fact sheet (pdf), or listed below:

Protect Health Safety Net Eligibility & Funding

The Health Safety Net (HSN) reimburses hospitals and community health centers for providing care to low-income uninsured and underinsured Massachusetts residents. Recent eligibility cuts and funding reductions impose barriers to care for individuals without access to affordable health coverage.

  • Support Rep. Barber’s amendment (#1119) to protect Health Safety Net eligibility and continue investing $30 million in the program, ensuring continued access to care for low-income uninsured and underinsured residents.

Close the SNAP Gap

Most MassHealth recipients are eligible for SNAP (food stamps), but the number of MA residents that get SNAP is just 41% of those with MassHealth.  A common application will reduce application barriers and help close the “SNAP Gap” in Massachusetts.

  • Support Rep. Livingstone’s amendment (#1041) to create a common application portal to allow MassHealth applicants and recipients to also apply at the same time for federal SNAP nutrition assistance.

Healthy Food for Families in Motel Shelters

Even when a family is eligible for food assistance, they often do not have access to cooking devices other than the microwave, no cold storage, and no convenient way or healthy place to purchase food.

  • Support Rep. Scibak’s amendment (#943) to create a working group to find ways to provide meals to homeless families temporarily housed in hotels and motels.

Ensure Access to Oral Health Services for People with Disabilities

Individuals living with disabilities have particular oral health needs, including adaptive facilities and equipment, as well as providers with specialized training.

  • Support Rep. Garlick’s amendment (#571) to allocate an additional $500,000 for the dental program for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (line item 4512-0500). 

Invest in the Office of Oral Health

Charged with preventing dental disease and improving oral health in all Massachusetts communities, the Office of Oral Health at the Department of Public Health (DPH) is an essential component of our state’s public health infrastructure.

  • Support Rep. Scibak’s amendment (#1057) to adequately fund the DPH Office of Oral Health (4512-0500).

Provide Unbiased Prescription Drug Information to Doctors

Drug company promoters market their drugs directly to doctors by providing biased information touting their most expensive drugs. To counter this, trained educators can offer objective evidence-based information to educate doctors on cost-effective uses of prescriptions, lowering the cost of health care.

  • Support Rep. Benson’s amendment (#698) to fund "Academic Detailing," the physician education program on cost-effective prescription drugs.

Ban Drug Company Marketing “Coupons”

Drug companies use discount “coupons” to entice consumers into purchasing more expensive brand-name drugs, when cheaper and equally-effective generics are available. When the coupons run out, patients are left with high copays. Massachusetts banned these coupons, then temporarily authorized them several years ago. The House budget would extend the authorization indefinitely.

  • Support Rep. Nangle’s amendment (#141) to reinstate the state’s prohibition on drug industry marketing “coupons.”

Early Intervention

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

  • Support Rep. Kafka’s amendment (#628) to fund Early Intervention at $29 million to preserve access to quality early intervention services.

Provide Independent Conflict-Free LTSS Coordination

As MassHealth moves towards implementing Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), consumer protections are critical. Independent conflict-free care coordinators help assess a person’s needs for long-term services and support in the community, and help people live in the least-restrictive setting. 

  • Support Rep. Sannicandro’s amendment (#808) to require ACOs to offer enrollees an independent, conflict-free care coordinator for long-term services and supports.

Drug Price Transparency

Prescription drug prices are the fastest rising component of health care costs. The Health Policy Commission reviews spending increases for hospitals, doctors and other components of health care, but not prescription drugs. Policymakers and the public need to understand the factors leading to higher health costs, including prescription drugs.

  • Support Rep. Straus' amendment (#1118) to include prescription drug price growth among the factors reviewed by the Health Policy Commission as part of its annual Cost Trends process.