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HEALTH CARE: Most Painful Cuts Are Falling

What is MassHealth?

MassHealth is the system that provides health coverage to approximately 1 in 6 adults and 1 in 4 children in the Commonwealth. It includes prenatal care, prescription drugs, some dental care, and nursing home care.

What happened to Masshealth in the FY03 budget?

Legislators eliminated MassHealth Basic, the state Medicaid program that provides health coverage for long-term unemployed adults. This cut will take effect on April 1, 2003 and will result in 50,000 people losing their health coverage.

Other cuts that took effect on January 1, 2003 eliminated payments for eyeglasses, prosthetics, orthotics, chiropractic therapy, and dentures (leaving only emergency extractions for adults).

What will happen to the people who lost their coverage?

Because few of them have the financial resources to cope with medical expenses, many will go without care. Statistics show that such people who lack insurance have higher mortality rates. They do not get preventive care when health problems are easily treatable and often show up in emergency rooms only after their health has deteriorated.

How much money did the state save by cutting Medicaid?

It isn't clear. The Medicaid budget drops $50 million in outlays, but the lack of preventive care – immunizations, prenatal care, and physician checkups -results in health expenses increasing in other programs. Furthermore, the state is reimbursed at the rate of 50 cents for each dollar spent on Medicaid This means that when state funds are cut, less Federal money comes into the state, and jobs are lost. The people who lose jobs stop paying taxes, and revenues decline. The net contribution to balancing the budget has never been clearly established.

What is the Romney-Finneran position on the Medicaid cuts?

Speaker Finneran says that the FY03 cuts were necessary to balance the budget. Shortly after the November elections he commented that “Medicaid, unless we address it in terms of eligibility and benefits, is going to probably bankrupt the state very, very shortly.”

During the political campaign, Governor Romney said that they the FY03 cuts were not necessary, and could have been avoided by better fiscal management and the use of co-payments. However, since taking office Romney has offered no specific proposal to restore the cuts.

Why are we unable to pay for health care when other countries cover everyone?

Almost 30 cents of our health care dollars go to support a multi-payer health insurance bureaucracy in which a multitude of private insurance companies make their own rules regarding who is covered and what is covered. By replacing this with an efficient single-payer system we could cover everyone at less cost. We are also supporting a pharmaceutical industry that charges Americans 60 per cent more for prescription drugs than they charge consumers in other countries. Other developed countries provide coverage for all their citizens and have programs that keep drug prices low. Pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies are major contributors to the reelection campaigns of incumbent politicians, and have been successful in preventing reform of the health care system. As a result, the system is generating high profits (Pharmaceutical companies are the most profitable sector of the Fortune 500), but coverage is collapsing for many people.

References:
– Health Care For All, www.hcfama.org
– “A healthy plan for Massachusetts” Robert Restuccia and John E. McDonough, Boston Globe, 3/9/02
– “Finneran eyes more cuts to state's Medicaid plan”, Rick Klein, Boston Globe, 11/23/2002


  

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