FY 2010 Budget Battle Begins

As the cliche goes, the ink is barely dry on this year’s budget when action starts on the next one.

Yesterday the Executive Office of Health and Human Services held the first of two public hearings on their FY2010 budget. Yesterday’s event took place at the Reggie Lewis Center; a similar hearing was held today in Springfield.

Secretary Bigby and her Assistant Secretaries and Commissioners heard from a packed room about different priorities. The one message repeated throughout the hearing was “implementation of new laws will cost money.” The Administration and the Legislature had an incredibly successful session, with numerous bills passed aimed on improving human services and health care. Among the topics of new bills are child abuse and neglect (Chapter 176), human service provider rates (Chapter 257), mental health parity (Chapter 256), children’s mental health (Chapter 321) and health care quality and cost containment (Chapter 305). Many of these laws have multiple provisions which will take financial investments from the Administration to implement and accomplish their goals.

From the Children’s Mental Health Campaign, Matt Noyes and Dr. David Keller talked about the necessity to invest in coordinated care to better serve the state’s children with mental health needs. From the ACT!! Coalition, Suzanne Curry spoke about the need to continue full funding of health reform. She also highlighted the MassHealth Outreach and Enrollment Grants as a priority for the Coalition. The grants go to over 52 organizations and directly helped 78,000 individuals navigate the enrollment and re-enrollment process.

The Massachusetts Prescription Reform Coalition was represented by Lisa Kaplan Howe. Lisa thanked the Secretary on passage of Chapter 305. She also highlighted the need for funding for the academic detailing program mandated in the law and also asked for adequate funding for the prescribing disclosure provisions in the bill.

Ken Farbstein, a Consumer Health Quality Council member testified on behalf of the Council. Ken thanked Secretary Bigby on the quality measures in chapter 305. In particular, Ken highlighted the provision mandating Patient and Family Advisory Councils at every hospital. Ken highlighted the success of councils in other states in reducing health care costs.

A highlight of the testimony were a group of teens advocating for an increase in funding to support tobacco prevention and reduction. The groups, the Southie Teens Against Teen Smoking and the the84.org shared stories of why they chose not to smoke and were applauded after their testimony.

Speaking of stopping smoking, there are just three days left to take advantage of free nicotine replacement therapy by calling 1-800-TRY TO STOP. Since the tobacco tax went into effect at the beginning of July, more than 11,000 people have called to take advantage of the offer, which has no income or insurance requirements – anyone can call, and no personal information will be released.

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