MassHealth Taking Up Almost 40 Percent of Proposed State Budget

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What’s the biggest expense in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’s proposed state budget?


The state’s health insurance program for poor people makes up almost 40 percent of the proposed $47.6 billion state budget for the coming fiscal year, a state legislator said.

The proposed budget has more than 900 amendments and a price tag of $47.6 billion. It increases spending by 3.5 percent from the current fiscal year.

Of that $47.6 billion, 39.8 percent will go toward funding MassHealth, said state Senator Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport), chairman of the Massachusetts Senate’s Ways and Means Committee, according to State House News Service. That means it will cost the state more than $18.9 billion in the coming fiscal year.

MassHealth is two different forms of health care rolled into one program in the state. It includes both Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

In Massachusetts, citizens who earn less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level can receive free health insurance from MassHealth. Those earning less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level qualify for the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The features are part of the state’s health care reform enacted by then-governor Mitt Romney in 2006.

The state also has an individual mandate for private health insurance. Those earning above 150 percent of the federal poverty level must have it or else the pay a penalty. That penalty gets progressively larger depending on how much income one earns. For those who make more than 300 percent of the federal poverty level, the penalty is $135 per month, or $1,620 per year. Down on the bottom side of the scale, those earning between 150.1 percent and 200 percent of the federal poverty level pay a penalty of $22 per month or $264 per year, according to the state’s web site.

As of 2019, Massachusetts had the highest percent of people covered by health insurance of any state in the country, according to WalletHub. Among adults, only 3.39 percent were uninsured — and for children, that rate was 1.52 percent. The least insured state on that list was Texas. There, 12.75 percent of children were uninsured while the same was true of 20.47 percent of adults.

As for the overall $47.6 billion state budget, nearly $600 million of that figure comes from coronavirus-related federal stimulus funds, Rodrigues said. But he also said, according to State House News Service, that the $600 million figure doesn’t include money the federal government plans to give the state government in the latest round of coronavirus stimulus funds, known as the American Rescue Plan.

Rodrigues described the proposed state budget in response to questions from state Senator Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), the state Senate minority leader, on Tuesday, May 25.

The proposed state budget is for fiscal year 2022, which runs from July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022.


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