Policy Updates This Week
HOUSE AND SENATE REJECT GOV. BAKER’S MEDICAID REFORMS
A week and a half after Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed the FY18 state budget into law and returned to the Legislature through amendment his package of MassHealth (Medicaid) reforms, the House and the Senate both voted on Wednesday to reject Baker’s MassHealth reform package while passing into law a new $200 million assessment on employers coupled with a reduction in planned unemployment insurance rate hikes. This vote comes a day after an almost six hour oversight hearing on the MassHealth reform package that was held by the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing and the Joint Committee on Ways and Means where legislators from both chambers spoke about their reluctance of passing such major reforms as part of the budget as well as skepticism that the reforms were an appropriate solution for the state’s low-income, disabled, and elderly populations who are on MassHealth. Leaders in the House and Senate both stated they would continue to study the issue and work on their own plans to save money in MassHealth.
U.S. SENATE REJECTS TWO OBAMACARE REPEAL BILLS, CONSIDERS ANOTHER
After months of contentious debate, there is still no clarity about how the U.S. Senate will proceed with their attempt to amend or repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Senate Republicans earlier this week cleared a procedural hurdle by passing a motion to proceed vote 51-50 with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the 50-50 tie. However, later that night the Senate defeated a wide ranging proposal from Republicans to repeal a large portion of ObamaCare and replace it with a more restrictive plan. The proposal failed by a vote of 43-57 with nine Republicans voting no. On Wednesday, the Senate voted to defeat a bill that would repeal all of the ACA with no replacement – with 7 Republicans voting no. As of Thursday morning uncertainly remained, but the latest plan is for the Senate to consider a so-called “skinny repeal” bill which would remove the individual mandate, employer assessment, and the medical device tax from the ACA while leaving all other components in place.