Since President Donald Trump’s January 20th inauguration, the strengths and weaknesses of our healthcare system have taken center stage in both the federal and state political narrative. This week, Massachusetts transitioned from policy debate into legislative enactment as House members took action to slow the incredible growth in enrollment of state residents in MassHealth.
The program has boomed since healthcare reform passed in Massachusetts in 2006. It rose again under the Medicaid expansion policy within President Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act. Currently, the Commonwealth’s public health care option makes up 40 percent of the Massachusetts budget and data shows this number is only on the rise.
In February, Governor Charlie Baker surprised the business community and legislature by including an employer mandate in his budget proposal. The mandate requires employers to provide coverage to full-time employees or be subjected to a financial penalty.
From February to April, debate and advocacy against the policy has been fierce. This week, we witnessed three members of the Republican House minority propose their own solution, offering work requirements and other restrictions to limit access to MassHealth.
On Tuesday, the Massachusetts House of Representatives voted to include within its Fiscal Year 2018 budget bill a major policy shift in an attempt to lessen the exponential growth of MassHealth. Ultimately, the House chose to include the employer insurance mandate proposed by Baker in the over $40 billion appropriations bill, making a hefty bet that the mandate will in fact cool growth.
Now, we wait to see if the State Senate includes the same language in its budget proposal, set to be released in May. And, in the long term, we wait and see if these measures ultimately have the desired effect in slowing MassHealth enrollment.