Policy Updates: Week of July 20, 2017
BAKER SIGNS FY18 BUDGET; VETOES $320 MIL, RETURNS MASSHEALTH REFORMS
On July 17th, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed the $39.4 billion FY2018 budget into law. As part of that, he included line item vetoes totaling $320 million. Additionally, Baker returned to the legislature as a budget amendment a package of reforms to the state’s Medicaid program, MassHealth, designed to reduce MassHealth growth and costs. This package includes a new assessment on employers, a freeze on unemployment insurance rate increases, a five-year moratorium on new health insurance mandates, and a transition of certain MassHealth enrollees who are eligible for private insurance onto subsidized, no-premium health plans offered through the state’s Connector. The reforms package also includes language authorizing the state to seek a federal waiver allowing them to modify Medicaid’s prescription drug coverage. Legislative leadership have indicated they plan to review Baker’s proposed health care reforms carefully, but are not convinced it is the right approach or that it should be done as part of the budget process.
DEMPSEY RESIGNING FROM HOUSE TO JOIN LOBBYING FIRM, SANCHEZ IN AS HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS CHAIRMAN
Longtime House Ways & Means Chairman Brian Dempsey (D-Haverhill) is resigning from the Legislature to take a job at ML Strategies, a lobbying firm in Boston, where he will serve as Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. Dempsey has served on Beacon Hill since 1991, and was the primary author on the last six House budgets, including the first state spending plan in Massachusetts history greater than $40 billion. This announcement sent a shockwave through Beacon Hill as many anticipated Dempsey would be the next House Speaker when Rep. Robert DeLeo (D – Winthrop) retired. Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez (D – Boston) was appointed the new House Ways and Means Chairman. Rep. Peter Kocot (D – Northampton) will replace Rep. Sanchez as the House Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing.