Some Things to Expect in 2019

The healthcare system always throws some unexpected curves, causing hospitals and policy makers to adjust mid-course. Ongoing political disputes over the Affordable Care Act, continuing concern over opioids and behavioral health system breakdowns introduce uncertainty. But as 2019 begins, here are a few key developments that should occur without fail.

Budget season begins in January when Governor Baker submits his FY2020 proposal. In September (2018), the state released its 2019 acute care hospital Request for Applications (RFA), which is the main contract between the state and hospitals serving Medicaid/MassHealth patients. That RFA contained notable changes affecting reimbursement, including payment for complex care provided to MassHealth patients. Through the budget process and working directly with MassHealth, MHA and its members will seek to address the problematic payment reductions hospitals are facing in the RFA.

Last week Mass. Health & Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders was interviewed in CommonWealth magazine’s “Health and Consequences” podcast, and indicated that the administration will be focusing on community hospitals. Specifically she said, “"This coming year, as we revisit health reform in the commonwealth, we need to ensure that people have access to the community hospitals. I can't tell you what that's going to look like at this moment, but stay tuned…” Sudders also promised “another MassHealth pharmacy reform, 1) that guarantees access, 2) goes for direct negotiations with manufacturers, and 3) has strong consumer protections.”

MHA plans to roll out some interesting initiatives in 2019 focusing on the healthcare workforce. Stay tuned for updates to the Caring for the Caregiver initiative which focuses on employee recognition and gratitude, workplace safety, and employee wellbeing. Some concrete action steps to reduce physician burnout are in the works, as is a guidance document to help hospitals create a framework for an effective workplace violence prevention program. Also stay tuned for MHA-workgroup-created guidance to assist acute care hospitals in implementing a Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT) program in their emergency departments or satellite emergency facilities.