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

MA Health Reform

The Connector Hits the Road

Today members of the Connector Board’s Affordability Committee and a few hard-core Connector groupies traveled to Shrewsbury. With all of Bruce Butler’s talk of signposts, directions and parking lots, it felt like we were starting a journey. Between the heat and gas prices, I’m reluctant to travel too much, but there was one advantage of the trip: with only eight audience members, there were finally enough chairs. Read more »

Waiver Documents - Get 'em here

The State hasn't posted the waiver documents yet, but we have them. Dig in, health reform wonks. Also, State House News reported this afternoon that the health reform technical amendments legislation may move today (Thursday). One reason for urgency in moving the bill is a waiver provision that prevents the state from getting certain federal reimbursements until a technical correction is enacted. We'll try to post anything we get as soon as we can. Read more »

Feds Approve Waiver

Federal Health and Human Services Secretary Leavitt came to Boston for a hastily-arranged ceremony to sign his approval of the Massachusets "1115" MassHealth waiver. (Boston Globe coverage and photo). The waiver approval by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) allows the Commonwealth to begin receiving federal funds for a number of health reform programs. The immediate impact is the lifting of the enrollment cap in the MassHealth Essential program from 44,000 to 60,000 people. MassHealth Essential covers long-term unemployed adults below the poverty level. Some 10,... Read more »

ERISA Primer (I)

Last week, a federal district judge in Baltimore struck down Maryland's so-called "Wal-Mart tax" on the basis that it violates a federal law called ERISA. Folks who have been in state health policy for a while are quite familiar with this law and its relationship to state health reform. I assume many are not. And because this case and ERISA have real consequence for health reform in Massachusetts, let's a take a moment to review ERISA. (Click here for an excellent summary piece by Pat Butler for the National Academy for State Health Policy. Read more »

Weekly "Forward" Profiles GBIO Role in Health Reform

Interesting article in the July 21 issue of Forward, the progressive Jewish weekly, on the role played by the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization in Massachusetts health reform: "Religious Liberals Take Lead In Massachusetts Health Debate." The article discusses GBIO's role going forward into implementation, as well as the national context of GBIO's work and the debate over the role of faith-based organizations in US politics. Click here to read. Read more »

Connector Watch July 20th: Where Do They Stand, and Where Do We Sit?

ED Jon Kingsdale introduced new staff members. Maybe his next hire should be an event planner: the room layout doesn’t work. Once again, too few chairs. We sat on the windowsill, others on floor or stood in doorway. Moving tables or opening the divider with the adjoining empty room would have given ample space. We hope this, and other substantive issues can be resolved by next week. New Committees: The board created two committees: Affordability and Outreach. The members decided affordability is important enough that the entire board should be involved in those decisions, so the committee... Read more »

Wal-Mart Decision -- Massachusetts Between the Lines

Continuation from previous post ... Judge J. Frederick Motz, US District Judge, makes explicit reference to the new Massachusetts health reform law, in his ruling against the Maryland Wal-Mart tax: "Of course, I am expressing no opinion on whether legislative approaches taken by other States to the problems of health care delivery and its attendant costs would be preempted by ERISA. For example, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has recently enacted legislation that addresses health care issues comprehensively and in a manner that arguably has only incidental effects upon ERISA plans. Read more »

Baltimore Fed Court Strikes Down Maryland's Wal-Mart Tax

A federal court today invalidated Maryland's mandated health benefits law, otherwise known as the Wal-Mart tax, passed in January over a gubernatorial veto. The law requires employers with more than 10,000 workers to pay at least 8% of payroll on health benefits or pay the difference to the state -- Wal-Mart is the only affected employer of the law. Click here to get the court decision. The decision will almost certainly be appealed by the State of Maryland, and will have many more twists and turns, and may end up at the US Supreme Court. Read more »

Next Connector Meeting -- Thursday 7-20

Next meeting of the Board of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority will be July 20, 2006, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00p.m., One Ashburton Place, Boston, MA 02108, Conference Room 3. Agenda: I.Minutes*(vote, 5 minutes) II.Introduce new staff (5 minutes) III.By-laws* (vote, 5 minutes) IV.Proposed charge/composition of new Board Committees: (15 minutes) a.Affordability* b.Outreach* V.Proposal for a retreat* (15 minutes) VI.Preliminary thoughts on a ‘plan of operations,’ including: (60 minutes) a.Major activities of the Connector* b.Connector functions and organizational chart* c.... Read more »

A Decade of Progress on Kid's Health Access

Ten years ago this month, Massachusetts passed a law committing to quality, affordable health insurance coverage for all kids. Three months ago, Massachusetts built on and expanded that commitment with passage of the new health reform law, Chapter 58. In between, we've had ups and downs. Looking ahead, there's more work to be done. Today, we took a breather to celebrate and reflect on past, present, and future. We had a great celebration, with lots of special friends. Here's the State House News account of the event, by Priscilla Yeon: Read more »


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