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Voices in Healthcare

Moving Forward on a "Lock Box" for Federal Medicaid Matching Funds

On Tuesday I testified before the state's Joint Committee on Health Care Financing to add MHA's voice to the strong support for two bills entitled "An Act of Protect Health Care Reform Funding" Senate Bill 554 and House Bill 1023. This legislation would establish the "MassHealth and Health Care Reform FMAP Trust Fund" to ensure that new federal Medicaid funding received by the state is dedicated to support Medicaid and other low-income healthcare programs. I am extremely proud that MHA is part of a 12-organization coalition that is urging Massachusetts lawmakers to create this FMAP Trust Fund.

Beginning January 1, 2014, and continuing for decades, Massachusetts will receive additional federal Medicaid funding (known as FMAP funds) totaling $350-$500 million per year. Our Congressional delegation fought hard to ensure that this funding was included for the commonwealth, because as a national leader in healthcare reform, we do not qualify for many of the federal benefits offered to other states under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

There is no shortage of state trust funds and many may wonder why we need another. Or why we should put strings on such a significant sum of money. There are number of good reasons: First and foremost, all of us in the Massachusetts healthcare community greatly value what we have accomplished through the 2006 healthcare reform law and we want to see those successes sustained as we implement the ACA nationally. The Massachusetts effort took many years to debate and build, and it's something we believe deserves to be protected.

I believe we will need to specifically designate the FMAP funds for this endeavor because even though we're making important changes in the way we deliver care, changes that will help make healthcare more affordable, covering hundreds of thousands of lives with comprehensive health insurance and adequately reimbursing the healthcare providers who care for them will still require a solid financing plan in the years ahead.

We also recognize no one can predict that future. There certainly will be future budget challenges, state priorities will evolve, and there will be different leaders in all of branches of state government in the years to come. Maintaining expanded coverage, providing sound benefits, and paying adequately for services rendered by those who provide care to low-income patients — these are all challenges that could be addressed to a significant degree if we ensure the new federal healthcare dollars are used as intended.

While the "Trust Fund" secures the federal funding for Medicaid and other low-income healthcare programs, it does allow the flexibility from year-to-year that will be needed to meet the evolving needs of those programs. And there will be the ability each year to determine how to allocate funding within the parameters established by the Trust Fund.

So today, we have a unique opportunity to provide a long-term funding source to protect and sustain what we have cultivated since 2006. It's a step that could allow us to sustain our lofty goals from 2006 when it's 2020 – and beyond. As tough choices will almost certainly need to be made in the years to come, it will be important to recall the values and promises that we made though Massachusetts' groundbreaking initial healthcare reform law, to use them to determine how to finance health coverage for those that cannot afford it, and to ensure that those who care for low-income patients can receive the support they need to do their jobs as best they can. This is a unique opportunity that can't be wasted.