A Healthy Blog

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


Sect. Bigby Testifies on FY09 EOHHS Budget and a Lot More

Lots and lots of interesting details from this State House News Service account of MA Health & Human Services Sect. JudyAnn Bigby's testimony this past Friday on the Adminstration's FY09 budget proposal for Health & Human Services: FRANKLIN, FEB. 15, 2008…..Reprising Gov. Deval Patrick’s warning to lawmakers of the “cost of inaction,” Health and Human Service Secretary JudyAnn Bigby said on Friday the governor’s budget is a mix of cuts, reforms, efficiencies and targeted investments that lay the groundwork for economic growth. “Failing to make these targeted investments will weaken... Read more »

Patrick Budget -- Good News on Health

Governor Deval Patrick issued his budget proposal today, with lots of good news for health care access, disparities, and other health concerns. The budget is online here, with more public details and more transparency than any other budget in state history. A summary of the health reform-related initiatives is here. The Mass Budget and Policy Center produced a thoughtful rapid analysis of the overall budget (see it here). Here are a few of the key points: Read more »

Now THIS Is Good News: Cong. Dems Consider Medicaid as Part of Economic Stimulus

From today's Kaiser Health Policy Report, unadulterated good news for everyone in Massachusetts, especially those of us who care about health care access. Democratic plans to include an increase in the percentage of matching funds states receive for Medicaid as part of an economic stimulus package might meet "resistance from Republicans, although they might be willing to allow the provision in exchange for some of their priorities," CongressDaily reports. Increasing the federal medical assistance percentage would help states maintain Medicaid eligibility levels at a time when more people are... Read more »

The Power of Incrementalism

I recall Schwarzenegger during his early right-wing days as CA Governor decrying “economic girlie men” at the 2004 Republican National Convention. Oftentimes, it seems like the same sentiment is thrown at those of us who work hard for incremental health system reform by folks seeking total system overhaul. We just lack something – we don’t have the “manly” qualities of those who fight for radical change. Read more »

Bush Administration Tightening the Screws

Robert Pear in today's New York Times catalogues the efforts by the Bush Adminstration and Dennis Smith of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to deny federal approval to states seeking to expand their Children's Health Programs and Medicaid as well. Not just blue states, either. Ohio, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Wisconsin. What does this mean for Massachusetts? Good question. Read more »

New Year’s Wish – A Successful MassHealth Waiver Renewal and “Max Headroom”

Took down the tree this morning and found an unopened package on the floor. Turns out it’s a the official request (dated 12/21/07) from MA Sect. of Health & Human Services Judy Ann Bigby to Dennis Smith, Chief of Medicaid for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) “for a three year extension of the MassHealth Section 1115 Demonstration Project, effective July 1, 2008.” Click here for the cover letter, Demonstration Extension Proposal, and Budget Neutrality Calculation for state fiscal years 2009 to 2011. Read more »

MassHealth Enrollment Keeps Rolling

Newest numbers from the Office of Medicaid show a big uptick in MassHealth enrollment during September. Total enrollment grew by 17,864 in just a month. Growth was particularly strong in the family assistance category, which made up 13,938 of the increase. MassHealth's data expert commented that "the caseload continues to increase due to significant outreach efforts, including the large-scale public campaign connected to health care reform law implementation. New applications, rather than transfers from other categories of assistance have fueled the enrollment growth in families." Read more »

MassHealth Considers Quicker Cut-Offs

The Office of Medicaid held a hearing today regarding proposed regulations which would cut the time MassHealth members have to return their annual redetermination form. The current regulations allow up to 60 days. The proposed change would allow 45 days to return the form. The proposal implements a budget savings assumption for the agency, worth an estimated $70 million annualized (the actual savings to the state would be just half of the total cut in spending, since the federal government pays for half of the cost of MassHealth). Medicaid Director Tom Dehner presided over the hearing.... Read more »

There Is a Season -- Churn, Churn, Churn

Actually it may be more than just a season. A new problem on the health reform horizon is the involuntary disenrollment of Commonwealth Care members. Christina Severin, CEO of Network Health, highlighted this problem last week in a blog entry on WBUR's CommonHealth website -- click here. Money quote: The churn problem with Commonwealth Care members shows no signs of abating. For the month of October, Network Health accumulated just over 3,000 involuntary disenrollments. Thus, although we had close to 5,000 new enrollments, less than 2,000 net additional members gained coverage. Assuming... Read more »

C.58 "Technical Corrections" Bill Is Moving

From today's State House News Service: The House on Monday advanced a bill containing a series of amendments to state's health care laws, including one that patient advocates hope will spur increased coverage for workers who can't afford employer-provided health care." A lot of people who actually have unaffordable insurance from their work are really caught in a bad situation," said Brian Rosman, research director for Health Care for All. Under current law, workers unable to pay for their share of employer-sponsored plans and who earn less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level may... Read more »


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