THE SENATE IS PREPARING to unveil legislation designed to pare back the cost of health care and MassHealth by cobbling together ideas put forth by Gov. Charlie Baker, a commission on hospital price variation, and a Senate research study.
At a cost trends hearing on Monday hosted by the Health Policy Commission, Senate President Stanley Rosenberg said he expected the legislation to be released in a couple weeks and voted on by mid-November.
Rosenberg declined to say what elements of the governor’s legislative package and the commission’s recommendations would be included. He was also vague about where the Senate is headed with its research study.
“We can’t afford 6.4 percent increases overall in the MassHealth program,” said Rosenberg, who noted state revenues overall are forecasted to rise only 1.4 percent this year. “Spending on MassHealth is crowding out spending and investments in others parts of the budget.”
Concerns about state spending on MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid health insurance program, are nothing new. For decades, politicians on Beacon Hill have been trying to rein in the cost of Medicaid, often with little success.
Baker took a stab at the problem during the last legislative session. After some back and forth with the Legislature, lawmakers approved $200 million in new, temporary fees and fines on employers but rejected other reforms sought by the governor, including a proposal to shift 140,000 nondisabled adults with incomes above 100 percent of the federal poverty level from MassHealth to the state-subsidized ConnectorCare program.
Lawmakers promised to come back with MassHealth reforms this legislative session. Rosenberg indicated the Senate would act on a package of reforms first, drawing from the governor’s proposals during the last session, recommendations put forth by a commission that looked at disparities in hospital payments, and the Senate’s own research.
Rosenberg said the Senate proposal would also include initiatives to slow the growth in overall health care spending, noting that health care costs consumed more than 40 percent of the growth in family income over the last nine years.
The Senate research is being led by Sens. James Welch, Harriette Chandler, Karen Spilka, Jason Lewis, John Keenan, and Patrick O’Connor. Rosenberg said the group met in person with officials from Minnesota and Vermont and virtually with officials from Oregon, Washington, Texas, and Maryland. He said the group also held four local roundtables with various stakeholders.
Rosenberg said the Senate’s research has been funded by the Milbank Memorial Fund of New York City, which previously helped fund Senate research on the legalization of marijuana.