Massachusetts Universal Health Care CutsJuly 17, 2009 - 4:27 PM | by: Molly Line
As lawmakers on Capitol Hill battle to create a nationwide health care system to cover all, Massachusetts is struggling to keep the state’s groundbreaking universal coverage program up and running.
Facing a massive budget shortfall, lawmakers are cutting roughly 30 thousand legal, taxpaying immigrants out of the state subsidized Commonwealth Care program.
Health Care for All, a Boston based advocacy group, is taking hundreds of calls on their help line from people like El Salvador native Eugenio Hernandez who is battling prostate cancer and will be among those losing coverage.
Hernandez tells Fox News he pays his taxes and a small premium for the insurance he considers vital. “They’re going to send me the bills and there’s no way I can afford to pay them.” Hernandez explained, expecting more doctors’ visits to come.
Critics of the cuts say those left without insurance will resort to the only option available to them.
“They will end up waiting until they get sicker, show up at emergency rooms, be incredibly expensive and those costs will often fall to the hospitals where people are being treated,” said Lindsey Tucker, health reform policy manager at Health Care for All.
In these tough economic times, medical providers are already stressed.
This week Boston Medical Center, one of the city’s largest metropolitan hospitals, filed a lawsuit against the state claiming its being shortchanged by a whopping $181 million annually. BMC claims the state is not adequately covering the costs of Medicaid, Commonwealth Care and the uninsured, saying reimbursement rates have dropped to just 64 cents on the dollar to cover the poor.
The plan to cut tens of thousands of legal immigrants from the state’s universal plan will save an estimated $130 million a year- A difficult choice, say legislators, but one based on dollars and sense.
“We cannot commit to how can we solve this problem because we don’t know if we’re going to hit the revenue benchmarks we’ve planned this year’s budget on,” Rep. Bradley Jones, Jr., Massachusetts House Minority Leader said.
Governor Deval Patrick believes the state made a commitment it ought to keep and is urging the legislature to pass a compromise measure that would still offer some form of coverage to immigrants.
“We’re talking about hardworking taxpaying residents who are contributing to the system and we think it’s only fair that healthcare for all is really for all,” Patrick tells Fox News.
The governor faces an uphill battle. Revenues are down and the legislature is making tough choices. Frustrated lawmakers say many vital programs are suffering in this economy- including the state’s universal health care system, hailed as a possible national model.