GOVERNOR ROMNEY ANNOUNCES FEDERAL APPROVAL FOR COMMONWEALTH'S HEALTHCARE REFORM PLAN
Governor Mitt Romney today announced that the federal government has approved all aspects of the state's Medicaid waiver, which will allow implementation of the Commonwealth's landmark healthcare reform legislation.
The agreement preserves $385 million in federal Medicaid funding during each of the next two years. That money will now be available for premium assistance for low-income people to them purchase private health insurance and reduce the rate of the uninsured in the state.
Based on a 2004 state survey, approximately 500,000 people in the Commonwealth were uninsured. About 100,000 of them are eligible for Medicaid, another 200,000 are expected to be eligible for premium assistance to purchase private health insurance that will contain no annual deductibles, and another 200,000 with incomes over 300 percent of the federal poverty level will be able to purchase lower-cost policies in the private market.
"Our ability to now insure every Massachusetts citizen is a historic achievement for both the Commonwealth and the nation," said Romney. "A critical component of our plan is that all residents will have the opportunity to purchase affordable health insurance."
Approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) came less than three months after the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) submitted its 200-page plan.
"The federal government's approval of the Massachusetts' plan is a critical step for our implementation efforts of this sweeping reform," said EOHHS Secretary Timothy Murphy. "We look forward to working with all stakeholders to make this plan a success."
In addition to providing the mechanism to pay for premium assistance for individuals earning less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level, this action by the federal government gives MassHealth formal approval to expand the health insurance coverage for children up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. It also sets an identical threshold for the Insurance Partnership, a MassHealth program that helps small businesses pay for their employees' health insurance.
In addition, the enrollment cap in the MassHealth Essential program for the long-term unemployed has been increased to 60,000 as part of this approval.
"Tomorrow, the Office of Medicaid will clear its waitlist and enroll approximately 10,500 people into MassHealth Essential program. These individuals are currently being served by the free care pool today. By raising the enrollment cap on MassHealth Essential, these individuals will now have access to managed care and will allow dollars in the free care pool to be directed to premium assistance," said Beth Waldman, the state's Medicaid Director.