Governor Baker’s MassHealth reform package, which he coupled with an increase in the per-worker assessment employers pay, suffered a setback last week as the Massachusetts House and Senate – after public hearings on Tuesday – rejected the reforms while re-enacting the employer assessment and returning it to his desk.
The Baker administration has argued that, because insurance reforms take significant time to implement, the proposed steps are necessary at this point to preserve universal coverage and maximize federal matching dollars. Throughout the Tuesday public hearings held jointly by the House and Senate Ways & Means and Healthcare Financing committees, it was evident that many legislators were skeptical of both the potential effects and urgency of the changes.
The House and Senate on Wednesday voted to accept the $200 million increased employer assessment and rejected the MassHealth reforms, arguing that they needed more time to digest the reform proposal. Left intact however was a $200 million cut to the FY2018 MassHealth budget. Legislators from both branches indicated that they would continue to review and process proposals over the next several weeks.
The State House News Service quoted Rep. Peter Kocot (D-Northampton), the new co-chairman of the Health Care Financing Committee, as saying, "The most important thing that we have to do is get this right.”
MHA’s President & CEO Lynn Nicholas, FACHE, in a statement last week said, “As in 2006 when the commonwealth rallied together to forge a pathway toward ensuring healthcare coverage for all, this is now a time that demands urgent cooperation among all stakeholders and our state’s political leaders. It is clear that Governor Baker, House Speaker DeLeo, and Senate President Rosenberg are fully engaged in seeking meaningful solutions to our budget problems, particularly those involving MassHealth. The hospital community is equally committed to being a partner in forging a solution.”