Senate Budget Update and Amendment Guide

Tomorrow (Wednesday), the state Senate takes up its version of the budget for fiscal year 2012. Today, the Mass Medicaid Policy Institute issued its analysis (pdf) of the Senate budget proposal for MassHealth and other health care programs.

Highlights:

There are some key differences between the SWM budget proposal and the final House budget proposal. In particular, SWM included:

  • $42 million to fund a full-year of Commonwealth Care Bridge for those 18,500 legal immigrants currently enrolled in the program (the House funded the program for six months);
  • No change to adult day health services, a program that saw cuts in both the Governor’s and House budgets;
  • $18 million in cuts to MassHealth funding, with the suggestion to reduce adult day habilitation services from 6 to 5 hours a day to meet this cut;
  • New funding in the Office of Medicaid for MassHealth audits, as part of a comprehensive “program integrity” initiative; and
  • Creation of a new caseload forecasting office to better project spending, including for MassHealth.

Health Care For All and the coalitions we lead will be pushing for a number of amendments during the floor debate. As we all know, this is a challenging year for the Ways and Means budget writers, and HCFA was pleased that the Senate Ways and Means Committee worked hard to include funding for a number of vitally important health programs, including Early Intervention, the Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative, and a funding level for the Department of Public Health that was higher than the House proposal.

As the debate progresses, there are a number of amendments (see complete list of health-related amendments) that HCFA will be watching closely:

  • Amendments 446 and 503 – Oppose. These amendments would legalize prescription drug marketing coupons, driving up health costs by encouraging the use of name-brand drugs.
  • Amendment 461 – Support. Directs MassHealth to seek a Medicaid waiver allowing the state to establish 12-month continuous eligibility for children and their parents, addressing the issue of churning.
  • Amendments 464 and 465 – Support. Reinstates dental coverage under MassHealth for individuals with developmental disabilities, those living with HIV/AIDS, and pregnant women.
  • Amendment 511 – Support. Increases funding for children’s mental health services.
  • Amendment 519 – Support. Requires commercial insurance companies to pay their fair share for utilization of the Massachusetts Child Psychiatric Access Project (MCPAP).
  • Amendment 531 – Support. Provides funding to community organizations to enroll individuals in health coverage and keep them enrolled.
  • Amendment 546 – Support. Reinstates Commonwealth Care eligibility to legal immigrants who have been residing in the US for less than five years.

The next couple of days will be exciting ones in the State House. Please call your State Senator and ask him or her to stand on the side of health care consumers with their votes on budget amendments.
-Matt Noyes

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