Gov. Baker Releases Budget; Board of Registration in Medicine and MassHealth Affected

 

By William Ryder, Esq

MMS Legislative and Regulatory Counsel

Governor Charlie Baker released his first budget this week. Saddled by deficits from the previous administration, particularly in MassHealth spending due to well-documented problems with the Connector, Gov. Baker was faced with significant challenges.

Overall spending is up in MassHealth for Fiscal Year 2016. This is led by managed care line item increases with fee-for-service appropriations slightly down. Both these amounts are based on anticipated demand and projected to maintain access to covered services and maintain current rates. Chiropractic coverage is eliminated for a projected $300,000 saving.

Gov. Baker’s stated commitment to rein in MassHealth spending by confirming eligibility, rather than through across-the-board cuts to providers and legitimate patients, is a reasonable and fair approach that is also federally mandated. Some physicians have expressed concern about reports  that the state could carry over some payments from this fiscal year in FY16. This is often done in state government late in the fiscal year. It does not mean that there will be no payments until July. The governor’s budget proposal is a proposal which must be acted on by the legislature to become law. Usually final passage occurs in June.  Massachusetts State House

Also in the budget is the prescription monitoring program, funded at approximately $1.2 million, a reduction of about $45,000 from last year. It has only six employees to register prescribers, pharmacists, and delegates. As we try to evolve a better PMP, perhaps more resources should be provided to improve the system, provide support staff to participants with concerns, and strengthen the database.

The governor’s proposed budget also included outside sections that would directly impact the Board of Registration in Medicine by placing it within the Mass. DPH and under the authority of the commissioner. The MMS has always supported a fully funded, independent medical board with oversight by the Division of Administrative Law Appeals, the Supreme Judicial Court and the Commissioner of Public Health with some oversight on new regulations. This change was offered by former Senator Richard Moore and rejected in last year’s budget.  MMS will work to maintain the medical board’s independence.

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