Governor Releases FY2011 Budget

Governor Deval Patrick released his budget blueprint for fiscal year 2011 and the proposal is kind to most health services, including home care, despite a bleak fiscal forecast.

Medicaid Director Terry Dougherty led a MassHealth budget briefing and revealed that Health and Human Services was one of two secretariats (Along with Veterans’ Services) that saw an increase in funding under the Governor’s budget. Chief among the line items that are of importance to the Home Care Alliance is the MassHealth Senior Care (4000-0600), which was increased $374 million, and MassHealth Fee for Service (4000-0700), which was increased $113 million.

Under the state’s Aging Service Access Points program (ASAP), items were level funded, including Purchased Services, Home Care Case Management, and the Enhanced Community Options Program.

Also of note is a $99 million increase for Personal Care Attendants, Adult Foster Care, Adult Day Health and Day Habilitation programs.

In all, Dougherty said they are assuming an increase in FMAP by $607 million and anticipating a 3 percent increase in MassHealth total enrollment. The Governor also filed a $200 million supplemental budget for MassHealth, as well.

However, the proposed budget relies heavily on new revenue sources to balance accounts, which is a troubling trend since the Legislature must pass new taxes and remove tax incentives to continue the funding the Governor proposes.  In an election year, this may prove to be a difficult effort, and we hope that legislators will recognize the benefit the Home Care industry offers to the health care system as they deliberate upon what will likely be a more lean FY11 budget. House Speaker Robert DeLeo has already indicated through the media that his House budget, due in the spring, will not include a tax increase.

Some of the proposed new revenues include removing sales tax exemptions for “other tobacco products” along with candy and soda. The soda and candy tax ban, in particular, is meant to raise nearly $52 million for public health services.

Even with that hurdle, this Governor’s budget is relative good news for the Home Care Alliance who will begin advocacy directed at the legislature as they formulate their own budget proposal. The Alliance will also be pushing legislative priorities such as Nurse Delegation of Medication Administration, Falls Prevention, and telehealth along with our work on payment reform.

The Alliance will push for these and other initiatives that are cost-saving or cost-neutral while improving patient care and making easier the work of HCA members.

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