Senate Bill. 1703 (House Ways & Means Committee)
House Bill. 2169 (Senate Ways & Means Committee)
AN ACT EXPANDING ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE, REDUCING YOUTH SMOKING AND THE USE OF TOBACCO PRODUCTS, AND IMPROVING THE PUBLIC HEALTH IN THE COMMONWEALTH
Sponsors: Senate Sponsors: Sen. Montigny, Melconian, Moore, Creem, Fargo, Chandler, Magnani, Nuciforo Jr.
House Sponsors: Rep. Kaprielian, Rogers, Stefanini, Lynch, Malia, Linsky, Kaufman, Festa, Donovan, Marzilli, Golden, Wolf, Hodgkins, Kulik, Honan, Fallon, Story, Fox, Pope, Hynes, Koczera, Demakis, Barrios, Balser, Carron, Falzone, Jehlen, Smizik, Paulsen, Swan, Reinstein, Atkins, Speliotis, Teahan, Kennedy, Goguen, Walsh, Merrigan, Leary, Cabral,
Owen-Hicks, Rushing, Khan, Rogers, Patrick, Provost
The Problem: Due to the success of health care coverage expansion passed in 1996, the rate of uninsurance in Massachusetts has dropped from 9.9% in 1997 to 5.9% in 2000. Unfortunately, nearly 400,000 people in Massachusetts remain uninsured. Lower income adults and racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately uninsured. Many people who are covered by public programs continue to face barriers to access and are in need of health education, leading to nderutilization of important services or inappropriate use of other services. Compounding this health care crisis, nearly one-in-five Massachusetts adults are smokers and 24,000 young people under 18 become new daily smokers each year. Massachusetts' health care expenditures directly related to tobacco use totals $ 2.4 billion annually.
What Health Now! Does: Health Now!,a proposal by a coalition of consumer and public health advocates, providers, and insurers, expands health insurance coverage and reduces tobacco consumption. Health Now! is funded by a 50-cent tobacco tax increase along with federal matching funds.
Health Now! will cover approximately 85,000 adults, including low-wage workers, parents of children covered by MassHealth/CHIP, and nineteen and twenty year olds who are not dependents. The bill will provide coverage through MassHealth for all adults up to 133% of the federal poverty level and to parents up to 200% of the poverty level ($35,300 for a family of four). Adults not eligible for MassHealth because of citizenship status or income level will be eligible on a sliding scale for a new program, the Adult Medical Security Program (AMSP), up to 300% of the poverty level ($25,570 for an individual). The AMSP will provide physician and other non-hospital services, while hospitalization will be covered by the Free Care Pool.
A portion of the revenue generated by the new tobacco tax will be used to support existing health care programs for children, parents, seniors, people with disabilities, and the long-term unemployed.
Health Now! will also support an expanded role for community health workers, particularly in low income, minority, and immigrant communities where the rate of uninsurance is highest and where people rely most heavily on emergency care.
Health Now! will contribute to reducing racial and ethnic disparities in health by expanding health coverage, emphasizing prevention and health education, linking people to appropriate and culturally competent care, and reducing tobacco related illness and death.
Health Now! authorizes the transfer of federal matching funds generated by disproportionate share payments to hospitals to the Commonwealth's other access programs. This will allow funds to remain in the free care pool to ensure that it can continue to reimburse hospitals for care to those who need it, including children and adults enrolled in the CMSP and AMSP.
The bill authorizes the Commonwealth to apply for new federal matching funds to reduce the cost to the Commonwealth of the catastrophic prescription program and protect and expand benefits for low income seniors and people with disabilities.
Finally, by raising tobacco taxes, tobacco-related deaths will be reduced by over 8,000 and youth smoking by 8.5%.
Youth, minorities, and low-income smokers are two to three times more likely to quit or to smoke less than other smokers in response to price increases. In addition to decreasing tobacco consumption, Health Now! will decrease the Commonwealth's tobacco-related health expenditures. Health Now! also makes quit-smoking treatment a covered benefit under public programs.
The Health Now! Massachusetts campaign is part of the Alliance for a Healthy New England, a six-state effort to increase tobacco taxes and use the proceeds to expand health coverage and promote public health.
For more information please contact:
Marcia Hams at Health Care for All at 617 350-7279 x2917
Jack Hall at Meredith and Hall at 617 338-0954
Marc Boutin at the American Cancer Society 617 556-7420