Dear Friends and Neighbors,
While the debate to save health care access rages on at the federal level, a quieter battle has been going on here in Massachusetts. About a month ago, Governor Baker proposed a cut to MassHealth, our state’s Medicaid program, that would have made Massachusetts the first state to roll back the Medicaid expansion authorized by the Affordable Care Act, and undermined our state’s near-universal health coverage.
These changes would primarily have affected over a hundred thousand working parents – those working minimum wage but unable to pay high premiums for employer coverage. These are families living on the edge, and any increase in premiums could mean that they would not get health insurance. And for those able to pay premiums, higher copayments for services would mean that they would be unable to go to the doctor for care, even with their coverage.
The Governor initially proposed these cuts during the final House and Senate budget negotiations. A number of us spoke up about these cuts to raise the challenges they would create for families, and I am thankful that they were not included in the legislature’s budget. At that time, I spoke on the House floor during the vote to pass the FY18 state budget. One of the things I'm most proud of in this year's budget package is protecting health care for low-income people.
The Governor, who has the power to veto and amend the legislature’s final budget, then sent these same MassHealth cuts back to the legislature, requesting the legislature act quickly on his proposal. What’s more, he threatened to issue further cuts to the FY18 budget if we didn’t accept his changes to MassHealth eligibility and benefits.
At this time, I worked with two colleagues to raise the profile of just what was at stake, and wrote this OpEd in Commonwealth Magazine. “We may not be able to control what is going on in Washington, but we have an opportunity and an obligation to our constituents to stand up and support health care at home.”
This week, the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means and Health Care Financing held a joint hearing on the MassHealth cuts, in response to the Governor’s request to act quickly. I testified with my colleagues on the importance of rejecting Governor Baker’s MassHealth reform proposal, because of its negative impacts for poor, working families: “Turning back on these programs now puts us on the road to undo the reforms of the last ten years. Instead, we should be focusing on recent bipartisan reforms to improve our health system without cutting benefits.”
Today, I am proud to report that the House voted to reject Governor Baker’s proposal, signifying our commitment to supporting low-income families as they work their way out of poverty.
Given the federal debate that continues to change course everyday, I am proud that Massachusetts remains a leader in health coverage. However, this is likely not the last attempt we'll see to cut coverage for low-income families and individuals. I am committed to protecting all residents of Massachusetts, particularly the most vulnerable, and I pledge to always speak up when families' livelihoods are threatened.
Testifying against MassHealth cuts
In the News:
State Budget update: Rep. Barber voted last week to enact a $40.2 billion budget for fiscal year 2018 that includes funding for schools and local aid, key community programs, and a number of critical local projects. Read more.
Bill to review costs of prescription drugs: Amid efforts at the state level to find a way to control health care costs, prescription drugs have been singled out as one of, if not the, biggest drivers of growth in spending for consumers and businesses. Legislation sponsored by Rep. Christine Barber and Sen. Linda Forry (H 3223/ S 627) would require manufacturers of the most expensive drugs to explain the reasons for their prices and to participate in the Health Policy Commission's (HPC) annual hearings on health care costs. Read more.
More Coverage on the Legislature's Health Care Debate:
Reforms or Rollbacks?: Reps. Christine Barber, Ruth Balser and Jay Livingstone called Baker out for what they see as supporting policies at the local level that he's condemned the national GOP for pursuing nationwide.
Lawmakers again reject Baker’s plan to rein in health care costs: Massachusetts legislators, in a showdown with Governor Charlie Baker, again rebuffed his plan to curb the state’s rising health care costs, in part by moving some poor adults off of the state’s health care safety net program.
Office Hours this week! Friday, July 28th
with Special Guest W4 School Committee member Andre Green
Winter Hill Brewery, Somerville