Budget Amendments, Immigration Guidance, and more... 

Three Hospital Priorities for FY2019 House Budget Debate

Debate begins today on the Massachusetts House Ways & Means Committee’s state budget proposal for FY 2019. The committee released its $41 billion budget plan on Wednesday, April 11 and within two days, 1,400 amendments had been filed.

Three of those amendments were filed on behalf of MHA.  Hospitals reacted generally favorably to the Ways & Means budget, noting that it strengthened both the Health Safety Net program as well as assuring MassHealth reimbursement relief to disproportionate share hospitals (DSH).

One MHA amendment – #940 filed by Rep. Michael Finn (D-West Springfield) – seeks to further assist the DSH by directing MassHealth to expend $12.3 million specifically for DSH inpatient and outpatient behavioral health and substance use disorder services, with a  priority on care provided to children and adolescents.

Another MHA amendment (#280 filed by Reps. David Linsky (D-Natick) and Jim O’Day (D-West Boylston) would allow providers to freely negotiate with MassHealth Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) for in-network services and out-of-network non-emergency services.  Under new state policies, MassHealth MCO reimbursements have been capped at 100% of the MassHealth fee-for-service rates. That cap and the inability to negotiate it is putting immense financial pressure on hospitals that are, in many cases, the key elements of the new Accountable Care Organization models guiding healthcare. As the ACOs – with hospitals at their center – take on more risk they need the ability to freely negotiate with the MCOs.

Finally, amendment #725 filed by Kate Hogan (D-Stow) would allow hospitals streamlined, integrated access to the state’s prescription monitoring program, also known as MassPAT. Specifically, the amendment would allow hospitals to directly access MassPAT data in real time to allow for timely decision-making so that providers get the full picture of all the treatment that a patient has been receiving. The amendment doesn’t compromise compliance with strict federal and state privacy and security rules.

Immigration Toolkit Complements MHA Efforts

With increased federal activity relating to immigration, healthcare facilities have been grappling with questions related to patients and staff whose legal status in the U.S. may be in jeopardy.

In 2017, MHA responded to the issue by hosting for its membership two training sessions focusing on how to respond to federal immigration and customs enforcement officials (ICE) if they come to a facility, and how employees will be affected by changes to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and the Temporary Protected Status programs. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office worked with providers and patient advocates to develop statewide guidance on protecting  patient confidentiality and access to care if ICE comes to a facility seeking information on patients.

Now, the Immigrant Healthcare Access Coalition – founded by Health Law Advocates and supported by Health Care For All and the Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Coalition – has developed an immigrant toolkit to provide clarity to growing concerns related to immigrant rights and to ensure that immigrants in Massachusetts are receiving the best healthcare available to them. The toolkit can be found on the Health Care For All website here. It is designed to promote immigrant health rights and includes resources for providers, patients, and all individuals. The toolkit also includes resources on immigration assistance available in communities; websites and social media links to help people follow what is occurring on this issue in Massachusetts and around the nation; and ways that individuals can get more involved or take action nationally.

APRE Visits Boston This Week

The top public relations executives from health and hospital associations around the U.S. convene in Boston this week for the Allied Public Relations Executives (APRE) annual conference.  APRE is affiliated through the American Hospital Association. This year, MHA’s V.P. of Communications and Marketing Christine Baratta is hosting the event on behalf of MHA.  Panel discussions will focus on, among other items, “Our Nation’s Opioid, Mental Health and Homelessness Crisis: Challenges and Solutions,” and “Recreational Marijuana: Coming Soon to Your State.”

Management of Dementia in Acute Care Settings

Attend A Map Through the Maze on Wednesday, May 23 at the DCU Center in Worcester to learn the latest on newly released care standards from the Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias Acute Care Advisory Committee, and how they will affect your work and patient care.  Celebrating its 25th year, this practical-based Alzheimer’s and dementia care conference offers professionals the opportunity to learn current and cutting edge information on a wide range of Alzheimer’s-related care topics. A Map Through the Maze features 30 breakout sessions, offering diverse topics for any interests.  CEU offerings are included.  For more information, visit here.  Direct questions to Lorraine Kermond at lkermond@alz.org.

An Overview of Healthcare Financial Management

Wednesday, May 9; 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
MHA Conference Center, Burlington, Mass.

Healthcare delivery methods and payment systems are changing rapidly.  Alternative provider models; convenient, quick clinics in easy-to-reach retail locations; smartphone-based doctor visits; and internet consults between ED physicians and nursing homes are changing the face of healthcare.  Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase have joined forces to focus on healthcare costs.  Carefully managing the financial health of an organization is more important than ever. The need for sound business and financial management tools – planning and budgeting, financial analysis, and maximizing resources – is paramount for all managers.

This program will review the importance of budgeting and show participants how to read and better understand performance reports and dashboards. It will introduce a proven method of determining the real, underlying causes of budget deviations, explore an objective way to examine departmental performance that highlights both high-performing departments and those in need of some assistance, and examine three ways to look for improvement in routine work processes. Learn more about this essential program here.

John LoDico, Editor