We were heartened to see every member of Massachusetts House delegation vote yes in today’s special session vote in Washington to approve an extension of enhanced FMAP – increased federal Medicaid reimbursements. The bill passed on a 247-161, mostly party line, vote (see roll call). For Massachusetts, this means an extra $450 million or so in additional Medicaid revenue, as well as supplemental federal education funding. The President quickly signed the bill tonight.
This is particularly good news for the Commonwealth Care Bridge program, which provides stopgap coverage for over 20,000 legal immigrants who were removed from standard CommCare last fall. Under section 136 of the budget, upon enactment of the enhanced FMAP law, the state is authorized to spend up to $60 million for the Bridge program through June 30, 2011. We thank Governor Patrick for not vetoing this section and we look forward to working with the Connector, Administration and Finance, and HHS to strengthen the Bridge program for the upcoming year.
In the budget, the legislature had designated many other uses for the FMAP funds, totaling around $372 million. This spending was all vetoed by the Governor. With more than this amount coming in FMAP, we think it’s time to re-look at one of the most cruel and counterproductive cuts in the state budget – the elimination of many dental services for over 700,000 adults in the MassHealth program. We continue to get desperate calls daily from all over the state from people unable to get the dental care they need. We will be highlighting these stories on the blog. We understand that the state is not out of the budgetary woods. However, beyond the human suffering, the long-term costs of eliminating dental care will be with us for years, unless we restore the benefits.
One other note: We were frustrated that the funds for FMAP came in part from cuts to future SNAP (food stamp) benefits. Today’s Community Catalyst’s Health Policy Hub insider blog explains how the current Congressional balance of power (this means you, Senator Brown) forced a situation where cuts in future programs were the required price for stimulus we need now. We pledge to work with other groups to restore the SNAP cuts.