Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dear Governor Patrick

A short excerpt from a more extensive letter to Governor Deval Patrick from the President of the Massachusetts Hospital Association. The idea that coverage under the Massachusetts universal coverage law would be taken away from legal immigrants is deeply disturbing.

Dear Governor Patrick:

The Massachusetts Hospital Association (MHA), and its member hospitals and health systems urge your veto of section 121 of HB4129, the legislature’s FY10 state budget proposal. This section represents a significant step backward in the Commonwealth’s health care reform initiative by eliminating Commonwealth Care Coverage for 28,000 special status legal immigrants currently enrolled in the program.

...We believe health coverage should extend to all legal immigrants, not just those that meet an arbitrary time period of residency. ...[B]eyond the deviation from our goal of near universal coverage, this action also moves us in the opposite direction to better control healthcare costs. These 28,000 people would have less access to prescription drugs and preventative care, including that provided by independent primary care physician practices and mental health providers. The primary access point to medical care for these patients will again become the hospital emergency department, one of the more expensive settings in our system. And while the legislature’s proposal assumes a $130 million state financial savings, the Commonwealth’s true savings will be much less. That is because hospitals and health centers will continue to provide the care they currently do and will pick up the added care associated with loss of coverage from other medical providers and services.


Lynn Nicholas, FACHE
President and Chief Executive Officer
Massachusetts Hospital Association

Health Care for All explains more here. A summary:

- These Commonwealth Care enrollees are legal, working, tax-paying residents of our Commonwealth, deserving access to services like the rest of our neighbors.
- This is a counter-productive cut, consigning people to the unmanaged, episodic Health Safety Net for services.

- The cut will place additional burden on our beleaguered community hospitals and health centers.

- Eliminating coverage will reduce access to care and reverse the incredible gains we have made through health reform.

I believe that this is a test of the state's resolve to deliver what was promised in Chapter 58. And, while the President and Congress place great faith in our experiment, the resolution of this issue will also send a broader signal to those involved in the national debate.

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