MHA Submits Budget Priorities to Legislative Leaders

As the Massachusetts House and Senate begin to construct their FY2020 budget proposals, MHA, in consultation with its members, is calling attention to a series of priorities, including ongoing concerns related to the MassHealth program, and funding for the Health Safety Net Trust Fund and disproportionate share hospitals.

In recent years, MassHealth reimbursements have been held flat or have declined, most notably for outpatient services and outlier payments for the unexpectedly high cost of providing care to the most complex, highest-need MassHealth patients.  Additionally, the statutorily required yearly transfer of state funds to the Health Safety Net (HSN) Trust Fund has not been made since FY15.  Assessments on acute care hospitals, ambulatory service providers, and surcharge payers (insurers and large employers), fund the HSN. However, hospitals are financially responsible for any funding shortfall in the program. Due to continued shortfalls, MHA has requested that the state increase – and guarantee – its commitment to the HSN.

“Extraordinary care provided to the most complex patients carries with it the need for extraordinary support,” MHA President & CEO Steve Walsh wrote to Rep. Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston), the chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, and Sen. Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport), chairman of Senate Ways & Means.

MHA is also seeking a 2% increase to reimbursement rates paid to disproportionate share hospitals (DSH) as well as a supplemental payment for DSH providers that offer significant behavioral health services; and an inflation update to rates paid to chronic disease and rehabilitation hospitals. (The governor’s proposed budget released in January contains no such updates.) Walsh’s letter also seeks language changes to new MassHealth telemedicince coverage options to ensure that all MassHealth members, including those in the fee-for-service plans, have access to behavioral health services where a distant provider is located in a hospital outpatient department.

In his letter to Michlewitz and Rodrigues, Walsh wrote that collaborative relationship between hospitals and the legislature “is not only important in addressing hospital-specific issues, but also in advancing our shared goals of maintaining affordable healthcare coverage, adequately supporting those who provide care, improving the delivery of healthcare, and aligning the healthcare finance system to better support delivery systems and coverage reforms.”