A Healthy Blog

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

House/Senate Budget Conference: Health Access

House/Senate Budget Conference: Health Access

June 23, 2005

From HCFA Policy Director Brian Rosman: The conference report budget for FY 2006 was filed with the clerks at 3:00 am this morning. The House will vote on the budget at 1:00 pm this afternoon. It's an up or down vote - no amendments are allowed. The Senate vote will come after. The budget includes a number of wins on most of our key priorities:

  • restoration of MassHealth dental coverage for pregnant women and mothers of children under 3;
  • restoration of an affordable premium schedule for the Childrens Medical Security Plan;
  • a requirement that MassHealth hold a public hearing before restricting eligibility or benefits;
  • a requirement that the enrollment outreach grants must include funding the Covering Kids and Families program and the Western Mass Health Access Network;
  • an open enrollment period for Prescription Advantage and a requirement that the program cover costs not covered by Medicare. The budget does not include the $5 million appropriated by the Senate to subsidize copayments in the program, but does use the Senate budget figure for the overall program which was about $2 million higher than the House number.

The budget also includes two priorities that were in both the House and Senate bills: coverage for elder and disabled legal immigrants, and permitting dentists to limit MassHealth caseloads.

The budget include one major disappointment. The MassHealth Essential program is funded at the current capped caseload level. Unless additional funds are appropriated in a later supplemental budget, eligible applicants will continue to be placed on the waiting list. This is particularly disappointing as the Governor signaled in the past few days that the administration would support re-opening the Essential program if funding were provided.

The budget also did not include our outside section to repeal authorization for caps in the HIV and CommonHealth programs. The budget did include $18 million to restore MassHealth coverage for hospital stays beyond 20 days.