(Boston, MA)- Statement from Health Care For All's Executive Director Amy Rosenthal regarding the state budget proposal released by the House Ways and Means Committee for FY19:
“Health Care For All (HCFA) is very appreciative of the work that Chairman Sanchez and the House Ways and Means Committee have done to propose a balanced budget that strengthens the commitment to access to coverage and care in the Commonwealth.
“We are particularly pleased that the House rejected the proposal to reduce MassHealth eligibility for around 100,000 parents and 40,000 childless low-income non-disabled adults. While many of these individuals may have been eligible for coverage through the Health Connector, patients might have been forced to choose between keeping their doctors and facing an unaffordable premium. Moving vulnerable populations out of MassHealth could have made coverage less affordable, leading to more low-income people being uninsured or forcing them to take on significant medical debt.
“HCFA also commends the House for including a provision in its budget establishing an Office of Health Equity within the state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services. In our diverse state, racial and ethnic minorities continue to suffer from barriers to care and often receive poorer quality care. These disparities are also costly – one study estimated that 30% of total direct medical expenditures for Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians are excess costs due to health inequities. The Office would be a central voice on health equity in state government, preparing an annual report card and identifying best practices for eliminating disparities.
“HCFA will be working with the Oral Health Advocacy Task Force (OHAT) to add funding for periodontal care as part of the dental benefit for adults on MassHealth. Periodontal disease is a chronic bacterial infection of the gums and bone that surround teeth. When left untreated, this disease causes irreversible gum and bone loss leading to eventual tooth loss. Poor oral health, particularly periodontal disease, leads to costly chronic disease outcomes including those of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. It can also lead to low birth weight and premature birth.
“A recent MassHealth report estimated that restoring coverage for periodontal care would cost roughly $12 million, out of a total MassHealth budget of over $16 billion. Half of the cost would be reimbursed by the federal government.
“Health Care For All is looking forward to engaging with House members as this budget debate unfolds to ensure that public health care programs and benefits included in the fiscal plan meet the needs of our communities, especially the most vulnerable.”