Statement From Health Care For All's Executive Director Amy Whitcomb Slemmer Regarding The Senate FY2017 Budget Proposal

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

BOSTON - Statement from Health Care For All's Executive Director Amy Whitcomb Slemmer Regarding the Senate FY2017 Budget Proposal:

Health Care For All appreciates the work of Senate Ways and Means Chair Karen Spilka and Senate President Stan Rosenberg on proposing a thoughtful budget that focuses on directing funding to key programs for our communities.

We are pleased that the Senate's proposed budget includes a directive for MassHealth to work with other human service agencies to design one common application for all the benefits people may qualify for, including health care, food assistance, housing and child care. Streamlining access to multiple social services has the potential to improve the population's overall health and lower the cost of health care for the state.

We also applaud the Senate for funding the state's program that educates doctors on cost-effective use of prescription drugs. The so-called "academic detailing" program counters the aggressive marketing efforts by the drug industry to get doctors to recommend the most expensive, high-profit drugs, even when more cost-effective alternatives work just as well.

HCFA appreciates the inclusion of funding for the ForsythKids program, which offers school-based preventive dental care. This program works with schools and community partners to make it easy for children and families to access high quality dental care, which is critically important to their overall health and well-being.

The Senate budget also allocates full funding for the Early Intervention (EI) program, which provides family-centered services to help children who qualify develop the skills they need to grow into happy and healthy community members. The long-term payoff of the EI program for better health and economic sufficiency has been shown again and again, and we're pleased to see the Senate invest in this initiative.

However, we were disappointed to learn that the fiscal plan does not reverse cuts announced by the Baker Administration to eligibility for the Health Safety Net program. This program provides critical access to care at hospitals and community health centers for people ineligible for any other health care program. We urge the Senate to protect this long-standing linchpin of health care in Massachusetts for the most vulnerable members of our community.

We also are displeased by the gap between the appropriations level and the need for funding for the Tufts Dental Facilities. This program provides outstanding oral health care at seven locations throughout the state to disabled people who rely on the special expertise and facilities of the program. We hope the Senate can increase the allocation to the program so it can continue to serve all who need its care.

We appreciate the effort and work that has gone into this fiscal proposal and we look forward to work with the members of the senate towards achieving a balanced budget that takes steps to improve the health and well-being of all residents of the Commonwealth.