by State Senator Jamie Eldridge
In this tight budget environment, lawmakers are always looking for those magic bullets: ways we can improve services AND save money. I joined Health Care for All, state Health and Human Services Secretary Judy Bigby, and Christie Hager, US Department of Health and Human Services Regional Director of Region 1 at the State House yesterday to talk about one of those rare policy solutions: a bill I’ve filed with Representative Ellen Story to establish 12-month continuous eligibility for children and their parents under MassHealth.
Thanks to our health care reform law, Massachusetts has done a very good job providing health coverage for children – but we’ve done less of a good job keeping children continuously insured. As the Boston Globe pointed out yesterday, thousands of Massachusetts children remain without coverage, often because they fall through cracks in the system.
Health Care for All has launched an Enrollment Challenge, with 65 organizations across the state pledging to help connect at least 500 kids to coverage during the month of May. To compliment this great effort, Massachusetts should do what it can to address problems in the system by eliminating those bureaucratic cracks so kids on MassHealth don’t encounter coverage gaps in the first place.
By allowing eligible families to maintain their MassHealth coverage for a full year without having to reapply, we can help eliminate health care coverage gaps for children – and save the state money by reducing the administrative costs associated with reviewing multiple applications and reapplications from eligible families. Whether you care about health care for children or reducing unnecessary bureaucracy (or both), it’s a win-win situation.
Children lose their MassHealth coverage – despite remaining eligible for the program – for a variety of reasons. Household income can fluctuate, a family may be unable to pay the required premium contribution, or a family can change their address and forget to notify MassHealth. As noted in the Globe, paperwork glitches on either end – government or family – can also cause coverage to be dropped.
Too often, parents have to delay preventative care for their children because they don’t have health insurance, or are in a “coverage gap,” and can’t afford the medical bills. By passing continuous-eligibility legislation, we can help improve this situation for many children.
Massachusetts is still a leader in health care in many areas, but when it comes to continuous eligibility, we’re behind. Thirty-two other states have already adopted changes to their health care programs in order to ensure 12 month continuous eligibility for children and their families. I look forward to the Commonwealth joining with those other parts of the country by passing this legislation into law later this session.