Somerville and Medford State Representative Christine P. Barber voted with House colleagues Wednesday to reject an amendment Governor Baker made to the fiscal year 2018 budget that would have cut eligibility and benefits for MassHealth, the Commonwealth’s Medicaid program for low-income families.
First introduced to budget negotiations in June, Governor Baker’s MassHealth reform proposal would have harmed low-income families by lowering the program’s income eligibility level, and, for the first time, disqualifying from MassHealth families with children who have access to insurance through work. The House and Senate chose not to include the Governor’s proposal, and enacted the fiscal year 2018 appropriations act without any harmful changes to MassHealth. Representative Barber spoke in the House Chamber in support of the decision, saying at the time: “The proposed cuts by the Governor would make Massachusetts the first state to roll back the Medicaid expansion authorized by the Affordable Care Act, and undermine the state’s landmark near-universal coverage.”
The Governor’s proposal would have lowered the MassHealth income standard from 133% of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) to 100% FPL. This change would affect about 140,000 low-income adults and working parents. A family of three with one working parent earning between $21,000 and $27,000 would no longer qualify for MassHealth, and would be transitioned to less comprehensive coverage with greater cost-sharing. The Governor’s proposal also would have introduced a requirement for all low-income adults to accept their employer’s insurance, and disqualified these families from MassHealth if their premium contribution met a certain threshold, which was criticized by legislators and advocates to be an inadequate indicator of affordability.
Governor Baker returned the FY18 budget with his vetoes in July, and again included the same MassHealth cuts, requesting quick action and suggesting further cuts to programs funded in the state’s budget. The House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means and Health Care Financing held a joint hearing on the proposed MassHealth cuts Tuesday. Representative Barber testified in opposition to the proposal, due to its harmful impacts on poor, working families: “While budget constraints call for a trimming of costs in a challenging fiscal year, it is the legislature’s job to ensure programs that positively impact Massachusetts’ families are the last items on the chopping block. There is no truer example than access to health care.”
The House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to again reject Governor Baker’s cuts, signifying its commitment to supporting low-income families as they work their way out of poverty.
“I am proud the House voted to reject Governor Baker’s proposed cuts to MassHealth, and that Massachusetts will remain a leader in health coverage,” Representative Barber said. “Given the debate to save health care access at the federal level, now is not the time to undermine the Commonwealth’s health coverage; we should remain focused on bipartisan reforms to improve our health system without cutting benefits.”