Groups Ask Romney to Postpone Free Care Pool Changes

HCFA, other advocates, hospital groups and physicians sent a letter to Governor Romney yesterday asking him to freeze plans to make changes to the state’s Uncompensated Care Trust Fund (“free care pool”), the state administered fund that makes payments to hospitals and community health centers for care they provide to low-income, uninsured patients (read the letter here).

Earlier this month, the Romney administration proposed new regs that would impose new co-payments on pool users, restrict eligibility and eliminate payment to hospitals for services now covered by the fund. The proposal requires all free care patients, whose income varies between zero and 200% of the federal poverty level ($33,000 a year for a family of 3), to make a co-payment for every health care visit and every prescription, and will leave hospitals with no payment source for many of the services they provide.

The letter authors, which include leaders of Health Care For All, the Massachusetts Hospital Association, the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers and the Massachusetts Medical Society, say these changes will shift at least $100 million in costs on to providers and patients.

The proposed changes are scheduled to take effect on October 1st, but the 14 signers of the letter asked the Governor to delay any significant changes to the pool until after the legislature has acted on the major health reform proposals pending before it. “Now is not the time for the administration to unilaterally initiate major changes to the state’s safety net program,” the letter reads. “Rather, all the stakeholders should now be working together through the legislative process to expand health care coverage and devise a stable and sustainable safety net for the uninsured.”

The proposed changes are scheduled to be heard in a public hearing held by the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy on September 8th at the University of Massachusetts Boston campus.

Brian Rosman is HCFA’s point person on this. If you would like more info, contact Brian at rosman@hcfama.org

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