BOSTON (SHNS) – Lawmakers started to dig into Gov. Maura Healey’s annual state budget on Tuesday, probing the administration on how it is preparing for a process that much of the budget is predicated upon, the trimming of the health insurance rolls at MassHealth.
MassHealth, which combines Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, provides coverage to more than 2.3 million people, up from 1.8 million at the start of the pandemic. But federal Medicaid continuous coverage requirements that have been in effect since March 2020 expire in April and MassHealth will in May start redetermining whether members are still eligible and disenrolling anyone who is not.
The administration is projecting that enrollment will settle at around 1.9 million members during fiscal 2024. That would allow the administration to reduce MassHealth spending by $1.9 billion on a gross basis or $254 million after reimbursements compared to fiscal year 2023 spending projections, freeing up money that Healey puts back to use in other areas of the budget.
Healey told the Joint Ways and Means Committee that she has instructed the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security, and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to work across the administration and with the Mass. Health Connector to make sure the redetermination process goes “as thoroughly and as well as possible.”
“We want to make sure we reach people. We’ve engaged and are working directly with Health Care For All so that we can do a better job of reaching everyone out there and getting them through the redetermination process,” the governor said. “We know it’s a big deal. And the numbers are significant given what happened during COVID.”
To prepare people who could be kicked off MassHealth for the transition to employer-sponsored insurance or insurance purchased through the Mass. Health Connector, Healey’s budget includes $5.1 million for “proactive communication” with MassHealth members. Bran Shim, the budget director at the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, said the funding would go towards additional staff at MassHealth enrollment centers, extra money for postage and other communications, and outreach efforts from state government and contracted community organizations that focus on reaching vulnerable communities.
“This funding will maintain affordable, equitable, comprehensive health care coverage through Medicaid,” Administration and Finance Secretary Matthew Gorzkowicz said. “Again, we are not actively seeking to disenroll any specific number of people. Instead, we are ensuring that all Medicaid-eligible members have access to health care they need, whether that be through the Health Connector or an employer-sponsored health plan.”