Happy New Year from all of HCFA (see our staff picture above)! The year 2013 will be a critical year for health care in Massachusetts. State government will be making numerous decisions that will directly impact the availability, cost and quality of the care that everyone depends on.
Health Care For All will be there, making the sure the voices of consumers and patients are heard on Beacon Hill, and throughout the state.
Among the key issues we anticipate focusing on for 2013 are:
1. Implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Major portions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or “Obamacare”) take effect in 2014. These will require big changes to the health care coverage programs set up by the 2006 health reform law. By October 1, 2013, the Health Connector will need to implement changes so it can enroll people into the new programs. The legislature is likely to consider legislation this spring on how to implement the ACA in Massachusetts. HCFA will be fighting to make sure that we protect affordable coverage for low income families, and that the enrollment and eligibility systems work for everyone.
2. Implementation of the cost control and delivery system reforms. Last summer the legislature passed comprehensive legislation (Chapter 224) to control health care cost growth, and to reorient our health system to promote integrated, patient-centered care. With these changes, the system will focus more on keeping people healthy, saving money by reducing waste and preventing acute illness. In 2013, the implementation process begins, with new boards and agencies digging in and creating the regulations and guidelines as we move to accountable care. Our priorities include consumer protections, transparency, public health, and protecting vulnerable populations.
3. Roll-out of the integrated care plan for adults with disabilities. Beginning sometime this summer, MassHealth will begin enrolling over 100,000 adults with disabilities who are “dual-eligibles” – people enrolled in both MassHealth (Medicaid) and Medicare, into new managed care plans. These plans bring the promise of better integrated care and expanded benefits, if done right. But there is also the very real danger of inadequate coverage and barriers to receiving the long-term support services that people with disabilities depend on. HCFA is working closely with representatives of people with disabilities to make sure the plans meet all the needs of the people they serve.
4. Restore full dental benefits. For over 700,000 adults on MassHealth, the reduction in dental benefits imposed two years ago means they are at risk for severe problems with their teeth, impacting their ability to chew food, be social and be free of pain. For health experts, it also means they are at risk for many other health impacts, because good oral health is part of overall health. Lack of good dental care leads to expensive chronic diseases, like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. HCFA will be working to make sure full dental care is available through MassHealth.
5. Remove Barriers To Cost-Effective Care. Copays and deductibles are increasingly a barrier to care — especially for low and moderate income and chronically ill patients who require multiple treatments and services to maintain optimal health and treat disease. Research shows that many chronically ill patients reduce their use of drugs and other treatments when faced with increased cost sharing, but increase their use of more expensive emergency room visits and inpatient hospital care. HCFA will be exploring ways to remove barriers for high-value, cost-effective treatments and drugs, in order to promote better overall health.
6. Adequate revenue for the state. Our health care system is faced every year with sharp budget cuts, because our state’s tax base is not adequate for all we need for strong, healthy communities. HCFA will be joining with many other groups to work for sufficient revenue, raised in a way that protects low- and middle-income families and seniors from big increases.
We have a number of other issues we will be actively working on, including health care quality, mental health, prescription drug marketing, and a number of private insurance issues.
It’s a big agenda for 2013, and we welcome your input and participation. To support this work in 2013, please make an end of the year gift to HCFA today.