Budget Pressure Forces Cuts in Massachusetts Health Insurance Efforts
On Tuesday, the board of the Massachusetts Connector Authority, which oversees the state's health insurance law of 2006, cut $115 million in funding, or 12%, from Commonwealth Care, which subsidizes premiums for low-income residents, the Boston Globe reports.
The cuts come as state officials are forced to deal with a tightening state budget.
In addition, Patrick Holland, CFO of the Connector Authority, said enrollment in Commonwealth Care has increased from 165,000 to nearly 177,000 over the last three months, as more workers lose their jobs and thus their health insurance. Program enrollment is projected to increase to 212,000 in the next year.
According to the plan laid out by the Connector Authority:
- Most of the funding cuts will result from suspending a program that automatically assigned health plans to about 18,000 low-income residents who qualify for the full subsidy but fail to designate a health plan;
- Spending will be reduced by $32 million by slowing payments to managed care companies participating in Commonwealth Care; and
- Dental coverage will be cut for the 92,000 lowest-income residents enrolled in Commonwealth Care to save $10 million.
According to Leslie Kirwan, chair of the Connector Authority board and Gov. Deval Patrick's (D) secretary of administration and finance, no decision has been made about the 28,000 documented immigrants whose Commonwealth Care coverage would be dropped under the budget state lawmakers approved for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
Patrick has until Monday to decide whether to veto any portion of the budget, which allocated $116 million less for Commonwealth Care than he proposed.
Kirwan said that if Patrick decides to restore coverage for documented immigrants, he would have to find other areas to cut in the budget.
The Connector Authority's cuts take effect July 1.
The board will schedule a hearing in late July to seek public comment on the issues, Kirwan said (Lazar, Boston Globe, 6/24).
In an interview with the Globe, Massachusetts State Treasurer Timothy Cahill said that he is strongly against the state Legislature's proposed tax increases and instead favors deeper cuts to Commonwealth Care.
The program "was expensive, even in the good times. In tough times ... it just doesn't seem doable," Cahill said.Cahill also suggested that Massachusetts' experience is "a warning for the federal government as it looks to do something similar." He added, "I'm not saying we can't afford any of it, but it certainly doesn't appear that we can afford all of it" (Viser, Boston Globe, 6/24). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.