Senate Passes $32.4 Billion Budget with Telehealth Reimbursement

Building off the success of getting a telehealth amendment in the Senate’s Health Care Payment Reform bill, the Home Care Alliance earned a victory with the Senate also passing a telehealth amendment during their budget deliberations.

The amendment establishes MassHealth reimbursement for telehealth services provided by home health agencies through regulations that have yet to be determined. The next step for the initiative, though, is to get through a conference committee where the House and Senate meet to hammer out the differences in their separate budget proposals. That final product is then sent to the Governor for his approval.

The Alliance will have new advocacy messages available on the Legislative Action Center once the legislature’s budget conference committee is named.

The Alliance’s other priorities pertaining to Certificate of Need, home health nursing rates past 60 days of care, and relative to pediatric home care were not passed, although the certificate of need issue is seeing increased interest. This and the passage of telehealth owe credit to the hundreds of emails sent out by HCA members and advocates through the Legislative Action Center.

The other major item that the Senate approved was the Human Service Salary Reserve worth $20 million. This account to provide a slight increase in pay for 31,500 human service workers in the state was not approved by the House and will be a huge bargaining chip in conference committee negotiations. If passed, the increase in pay would amount to about $12 per week, per worker.

Other amendments of note that passed the Senate budget include a special commission to study causes, prevention and treatment strategies pertaining to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD). This would present an opportunity for home care to promote their chronic disease management programs and telehealth services. Also passed was an amendment that would create an advisory committee on long-term services and supports. If passed in the state’s final budget, home care agencies would have a chance to be on the committee or at least to submit data and recommendations.

Finally, other rejected amendments from the Senate included items from the state’s Home Care Program from the Executive Office of Elder Affairs that funds the ASAP programs. Specifically, the amendments for Home Care Purchased Services, Enhanced Community Options, and Case Management were all denied.

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