"Administrative Rule Threatens Health Care Reform Progress" by Sue Joss

This article is more than 13 years old.

State agencies, the legislature, medical providers and all those who have worked so hard to make health care reform work should be pleased and proud by the amazing progress we have all made together in helping hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents enroll in health insurance. The impact on our patients has been dramatic as they now have access to an array of specialty services they could not easily access prior to obtaining health insurance.

We have all worked hard and spent millions of dollars to make this happen. Assisting patients with enrollment is a time-consuming, labor-intensive venture. The tremendous progress in enrolling the uninsured has made this investment worth it to everyone involved.

Consequently, I am amazed and deeply troubled by an administrative decision which threatens to unravel much of the progress we have made over the past 2 years. Beginning next week, the state will begin mailing new MassHealth cards to members. The state has announced that if this mailing is returned due to a bad address, the MassHealth member will be presumed to have moved out of Massachusetts and will be disenrolled from the program.

Once disenrolled, these patients will need to reapply and start the entire enrollment process over. This policy will almost certainly result in the disenrollment of many of the thousands of Massachusetts residents we have all worked so hard to enroll.

At Brockton Neighborhood Health Center, we know that 35 to 40 percent of all mail we send to patients is returned as a result of a bad address. While a tiny percentage of these patients may have moved out of Massachusetts, the vast majority are still living in Brockton or a nearby community. In many cases, multiple people with different last names share apartments. If all of the names are not on the mailbox, the mail will be returned. In other instances, patients have moved but are still living in the area.

To completely disenroll a MassHealth member simply because a piece of mail is returned is mind-boggling to many of us who have so much invested in the enrollment effort. This includes the Commonwealth which has spent million of dollars in this area — and with great success! I am baffled by a decision that will undo so much of this amazing work. Rather than disenrolling these members, wouldn’t it make more sense to suspend coverage until the address is verified? Redoing the entire enrollment process is a monumental waste of time and resources and a huge setback to what we are all working so hard to accomplish.

Sue Joss
Executive Director, Brockton Neighborhood Health Center

This program aired on October 3, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.