State Budget Woes Blamed For Step Backwards on Universal Care

(This is an update on our report yesterday that 28,000 legal residents would become ineligible for Commonwealth Care under the Senate's proposed FY10 budget.)

Health Care advocates say the Senate is proposing a dangerous step backwards in the state’s bid to cover nearly all the uninsured in Massachusetts. But they aren’t hearing reassurances from the Senate, House or Governor’s office.

The advocates are angry about the Senate’s plan to save roughly $130 million next year by dropping 28,000 legal immigrants from Commonwealth Care, the state’s subsidized health coverage plan. Greater Boston Interfaith Organization president, Reverend Hurmon Hamilton, says these residents pay taxes, are on the path to becoming citizens, but have just not completed the 5 year waiting period.

"So now we’re picking on categories of people, I think that’s just the completely wrong thing to do at the time the nation is looking at us as a rational to try to drive health care reform by the end of this year."

But as state tax revenues plunge, neither the House nor the Patrick administration are pledging to find money to keep these adults enrolled.

Secretary of Administration and Finance Leslie Kirwan says the state has invested heavily in making Commonwealth Care a strong program.

"And so of course, changes in that are of concern. It is going to be impossible to balance the budget without affecting programs that people care deeply about in the Commonwealth."

The Senate budget debate begins early next week. Governor Patrick is expected to offer revisions to his proposed FY '10 budget (which is now about $1.5 billion out of balance) by the end of the month.

Martha Bebinger

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

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Martha Bebinger Reporter
Martha Bebinger covers health care and other general assignments for WBUR.



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