HHS Approves Medicaid Waiver for Massachusetts Law
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt on Wednesday approved a waiver that will allow Massachusetts to continue to receive $385 million in annual federal Medicaid funding over the next two years to help implement a new state health insurance law, the Boston Globe reports (Kowalczyk/Helman, Boston Globe, 7/27).
The law, enacted in April after the Massachusetts Legislature overrode vetoes by Gov. Mitt Romney (R), requires all state residents to purchase health insurance by July 1, 2007. Among other provisions, the law will require employers in the state with 11 or more employees to provide coverage for workers or pay an annual fee of $295 per worker; establish a low-cost, state subsidized health insurance program for residents with annual incomes less than 300% of the federal poverty level; and expand Medicaid coverage for state residents (California Healthline, 4/26).
In addition to the $385 million, the waiver will provide Massachusetts with $225 million in annual federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage for state residents. The "federal funding was considered at-risk earlier this year because Massachusetts did not finalize the law until April," after "Medicaid officials had said they needed the health insurance law in place much earlier to make sure it satisfied key federal criteria," the Globe reports (Boston Globe, 7/27).
Romney said in a statement, "Our ability to now insure every Massachusetts citizen is a historic achievement for both the commonwealth and the nation" (AP/Houston Chronicle, 7/26).
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) said in a statement, "Final approval of the waiver not only allows Massachusetts to keep the Medicaid funds but also allows us to move forward with health reform," adding, "Instead of facing health care cuts, we're well on our way to achieving our long-standing goal of health care for all."
Leavitt praised the Massachusetts law as "an important national model," adding that approval of the waiver "is an important moment, and not just today in the state of Massachusetts, but also across the country" (Kowalczyk/Helman, Boston Globe, 7/27).