(Boston, MA) - Statement from Health Care For All's Executive Director Amy Rosenthal regarding the state budget proposal released by the Baker Administration for FY19:
“Health Care For All (HCFA) commends the Baker Administration for their ongoing commitment to universal health coverage. From the Governor himself, to Secretary Sudders, to the leaders at MassHealth and the Health Connector, we applaud their continued dedication to keeping Massachusetts the number one state in the nation for health coverage. This Administration remains a strong voice in defending the progress we have made here and nationally.
“The task of balancing the state budget is always difficult. We support efforts to increase value and efficiency in MassHealth. Yet we are concerned about the Governor renewing his proposal to reduce MassHealth eligibility which will impact around 100,000 parents and 40,000 childless low-income non-disabled adults. Under the proposal, they will be able to apply for ConnectorCare, a more complex private coverage program.
“We appreciate the Administration’s intention to ease some the harshest features of last year’s proposal, changes made in response to strong advocacy from HCFA and its partners. Those who transition to ConnectorCare would be able to maintain access to oral health services and have access to one plan with no premium. However, patients might be forced to choose between keeping their doctors or facing an unaffordable premium. We are concerned about moving vulnerable populations out of MassHealth because it can make coverage less affordable, lead to more low-income people being uninsured or force individuals to take on significant medical debt.
“We are encouraged that in this proposal those who would transition to ConnectorCare would have access to the same dental benefits covered by MassHealth, but we also believe that MassHealth must increase the number of oral health services provided. The proposed MassHealth budget does not restore many adult dental care services for adults, such as periodontal care, that were cut back in 2010.
“The potential changes to the MassHealth drug formulary are also on our radar. Lowering the rate of growth of prescription drug prices is essential to controlling health care costs. We are pleased the Administration is taking affirmative steps to achieve this goal. Transparency is a long- standing priority for HCFA, and we are interested in learning more details about how this proposal maximizes disclosures in negotiations with manufacturers. We are also intrigued about how the proposed Value-Based Pharmacy Purchasing Proposal would be implemented and its impact on consumers. Massachusetts is the first state in the country to seek a waiver from the federal government to exclude certain prescription drugs as part of the Medicaid program. It is our understanding that the Administration’s proposal contains some consumer protections, and we will analyze their plan in depth to have a better sense of its feasibility and what it means for MassHealth members. Our priority is making sure MassHealth members have access to the pharmaceutical drugs they need.
“We are pleased that the Administration has proposed a major investment in programs that support mental health and substance use disorder treatments. It is essential that our state places more resources and attention to this crisis. Addressing issues related to mental health and substance use disorders are critical for ensuring consumers in the Commonwealth are healthy.
“HCFA is looking at this budget with a health equity lens and will work with the Administration to ensure that health policies and rules implemented in the state have the long-term goal of reducing health disparities and increasing affordability for individuals and families. The bill now moves to the House Ways and Means Committee. HCFA will work closely with the legislature as the budget process moves forward to make sure Massachusetts residents can access coverage and care they can afford.”
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Health Care For All (HCFA) is a Massachusetts nonprofit advocacy organization working to create a health care system that provides comprehensive, affordable, accessible, and culturally competent care to everyone, especially the most vulnerable among us. We achieve this as leaders in public policy, advocacy, education and service to consumers in Massachusetts. For more information about HCFA, visit our website at www.hcfama.org. You can also call our free HelpLine (800) 272-4232 if you need help applying for health insurance.