Category: Health Care

Reforms Or Rollbacks? Baker Battles Dems Over MassHealth

As the U.S. Senate voted to open debate on the Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, state lawmakers began their own review of potentially significant changes to Massachusetts’ health insurance for the poor. In the interests of balancing the budget an insuring the viability of state health aid, Gov. Charlie Baker is making a big push to rein in Medicaid spending. The result: some Democrats are offering more vocal opposition than Beacon Hill is used to hearing – at least since Baker moved into the corner office.

The cost of MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program, has ballooned by almost 50 percent over the last 10 years. Baker’s plan would transfer around 140 thousand non-disabled adults from MassHealth to their employer’s plan or to subsidized coverage through the Health Connector. Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders says there would be little change to coverage and premiums, but co-pays could rise to around $500 a year.

“I’ve read some things recently that suggested that we’re actually cutting people off of access to eligibility. Nothing could be farther from the truth in our proposals before you,” Sudders told a joint hearing before the Legislature’s budget and health care financing committees Tuesday.

Because the cost of MassHealth is growing much faster than state tax dollars, Baker’s finance officials insist eligibility must be paired back to preserve the program for the neediest residents and to maintain the state’s near-universal coverage rate.

“In 2006, we passed universal health care reform, providing the path to the [Affordable Care Act] and today we need to find the path to preserve and protect our gains in coverage,” Sudders said.

Over one quarter of Massachusetts residents, almost 2 million people, rely on MassHealth for at least some health care coverage, according to Sudders. Baker’s plan would affect MassHealth enrollees earning 130 percent or less of the federal poverty line, or about $16,000 a year.

According to Baker’s office, the changes to the program would save the state around $200 million a year.

Democrats on the panels are concerned that forcing people off MassHealth and onto the connector would mean the loss of some dental and long-term care coverage, as well as push the state away from its long-standing commitment to expanding access to health insurance.

Ashland Sen. Karen Spilka, the Senate’s top budget writer, said there need to be solutions to the cost problem that don’t include limiting local Medicaid enrollment, which was expanded under the Affordable Care Act.

“If we accepted the governor’s proposal on this, Massachusetts would be the first state in the nation to start rolling back Medicaid expansion. That is not a direction I would like to see Massachusetts going. We are a Commonwealth. We take care of our residents, particularly our most vulnerable residents,” Spilka told WGBH News.

Several progressive members of the House echoed Spilka’s position in an op-ed for CommonWealth Magazine earlier this week. Reps. Christine Barber, Ruth Balser and Jay Livingstone called Baker out for what they see as supporting policies at the local level that he’s condemned the national GOP for pursuing nationwide.

“These are exactly the types of cuts that the governor is publicly opposing in Washington,” the representatives wrote.

Baker insists the changes are needed to balance this year’s budget and keep MassHealth sustainable.

The MassHealth eligibility changes are paired with another proposal from Baker to increase how much employers pay into the system and to charge an assessment on companies that don’t provide affordable coverage to employees.

Testimony: H.2960 – An Act to protect access to confidential healthcare

Bill title: An Act to protect access to confidential healthcare

Filed by: Representative Kate Hogan of Stow

Summary: This bill pertains to the privacy of an individual whose healthcare information is disclosed in the explanation of benefits sent to the primary policy holder of a health plan

Heard by: Joint Committee on Financial Services

Date: May 16, 2017

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Proposal in wake of Longmeadow DPW worker’s death would extend death benefit to family of additional public employees


Cindy J. Cowles listens during a meeting Monday, May 1, 2017 at the Longmeadow Police Station about the railroad crossing where her brother, Warren P. Cowles — shown in photo at left — was killed in a collision with a train in March.(Greg Saulmon / The Republican)

Greg Saulmon | gsaulmon@repub.comBy Greg Saulmon |
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on May 01, 2017 at 8:31 PM, updated May 01, 2017 at 8:39 PM

LONGMEADOW — A state senator will introduce a proposal to extend a death benefit for family members of first responders killed on the job to additional public employees.

State Sen. Eric P. Lesser, D-Longmeadow, spoke about the proposal Monday, ahead of a meeting with town residents about the railroad crossing where Department of Public Works foreman Warren P. Cowles was killed.

“He died in the line of duty,” Lesser said of Cowles, who was plowing snow for the town when his truck was hit by a northbound Amtrak plow train on March 14. The crossing where he was killed, at Birnie Road and Tina Lane, has been the site of several previous crashes and fatalities.

'Fix this': Family, neighbors of Warren Cowles urge safety upgrades at Longmeadow railroad crossing

‘Fix this’: Family, neighbors of Warren Cowles urge safety upgrades at Longmeadow railroad crossing

Efforts by the town to install new safety measures at the crossing have been underway, in fits and starts, since at least 1981.

Lesser said he would introduce his proposal in the Senate during the state’s upcoming budget discussions.

It will build off a bill first introduced by State Rep. Jay D. Livingstone, D-Boston, last year.


Livingstone’s proposal was referred to the legislature’s Committee on Public Service in January.

Lesser expressed optimism that the effort will gain traction. “I think circumstances have changed,” he said.

Gov. Charlie Baker in March signed a bill in March doubling the death benefit for first responders from $150,000 to $300,000. Currently, the benefit is available to the family of any firefighter or police officer — full-time or reserve — as well as public prosecutors, municipal or public emergency medical technicians and correction officers killed in the line of duty.

Livingstone’s bill expands the coverage to “any public employee working for state or county government, a Massachusetts public higher education institution, a municipality, public school department, or public school district or public authority who, while in the performance of his/her duties and as a result of incident, 8 accident or violence, was killed or sustained injuries which were the direct and proximate cause 9 of his/her death.”

As written, Livingstone’s bill set the benefit at $150,000. Lesser said he anticipated updating the amount to reflect the new law signed by the governor in March.

If the effort is ultimately successful, Lesser said he will push to apply the benefit retroactively to Cowles’ family.

Lesser and State Rep. Brian M. Ashe, D-Longmeadow, convened a meeting about the crossing Monday night at Longmeadow’s police station. Nearly 20 town residents, as well as family members and friends of Cowles attended.

The meeting was planned, Lesser said, to give the legislators a chance to hear more about the concerns residents have about the crossing.

“This is personal as well as professional for all of us,” Ashe said as the meeting got underway, noting that he knew Cowles from his time as a member of the town’s Select Board.

“It’s too late for me, but I can help protect others,” said Cowles’ sister, Cindy J. Cowles of Springfield, as she urged the officials to continue the pursuit of upgraded safety signals at the crossing.

Rep. Livingstone’s Bill Co-Sponsorship for 2017-18 session

Legislative Agenda

Co-Sponsored Legislation
2017-2018 Legislative Session

Below are all of the bills that I have decided to co-sponsor this session organized by their subject area. As you can imagine, leafing through thousands of bills can be very cumbersome, so I would like to thank all of my constituents that wrote in with their requests. If you didn’t have a chance to write in, no worries! Contact information is below to remain updated on whichever bill(s) that you would like.

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To learn more about the legislation that I have filed and co-sponsored, you can check out my public legislative page here, or reach out to my Legislative Aide, Caitlin Duffy, by email ( or by telephone (617-722-2396)