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Cuts Hit Health Care For Poor

Low-income residents covered by Medicaid in Massachusetts could soon be required to pay more to see a doctor, pay more for prescriptions and face drastic cuts in dental care offered by the state's MassHealth program.

MassHealth is facing a $307 million budget shortfall this fiscal year because of an increase in its caseloads and an increase in the number of services recipients are using.

Interim Medicaid director Terence Dougherty said Friday that MassHealth is seeing an unprecedented enrollment as people lose jobs.

"We haven't seen numbers like this even in the early expansion in the late 90's. It's almost now that 1 out of 5 people in the commonwealth is insured under MassHealth."

Dougherty said MassHealth will not drop people from its rolls by changing eligibility requirements.

However, MassHealth is planning to reduce dental services to cleanings, X-rays and emergency services.

The program will also double co-payments for visits to specialists, to $6.

Co-payments for brand-name drugs will also increase.

Health care advocates criticize the cost-cutting moves, saying they are changing the spirit of the state's landmark health care law.

"These cuts really represent a shift in some of the responsibility so that individuals will be required to pay more than their share they were paying previously," said Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, executive director of Health Care For All.

More than 1.2 million Massachusetts residents receive Medicaid assistance.

This program aired on November 14, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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