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One Mass. official says MassHealth eligibility check forms are 'almost torture' to fill out

During a June 8, 2023 Massachusetts Health Connector Board Meeting, Health and Human Services Secretary Kate Walsh told board members the forms were 'almost torture' to fill out by hand.
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Massachusetts Health Connector
During a June 8, 2023 Massachusetts Health Connector Board Meeting, Health and Human Services Secretary Kate Walsh told board members the forms were 'almost torture' to fill out by hand

One official says the statewide effort to check MassHealth eligibility is "almost torture" because the forms are so hard.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kate Walsh says the federally required process of checking the insurance eligibility of Massachusetts residents is difficult and a lot more hands-on than expected. But this comes despite advanced messaging and outreach campaigns about the blue envelopes, and the task of re-enrolling 2.4 million members is not going smoothly. Chris Lisinski with the State House News Service has the latest.

Chris Lisinski, SHNS: We're about two months into the process that's going to take the entirety of the next year to figure out which MassHealth members are still eligible to remain on the state's Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program rolls. In the first month, just in April, we saw about 12,000 people fall off the rolls, but that's a drop in the bucket compared to the expectation of what's going to happen as this gets up and running. And there is just so much work involved in this. Campaigns out on the ground, door knocking, and mailings that state officials are saying is really taking an extraordinary amount of resources.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: State Senate Democrats last week advanced a long-awaited tax relief package. What should we know about what they included?

A lot of what's in this tax package is similar to what both the House and the Senate initially approved last year before they backed away from tax relief, things like increases to the rent or deduction, senior circuit breaker tax credit, earned income tax credit. Senate Democrats are onboard with changing the state's estate tax. But, unlike the House and Gov. Maura Healey, they are not at all interested right now in making changes to the state's short term capital gains tax rate.

Mass Fiscal Alliance and others have expressed dismay with what senators put forward. So, what's up with that? And is that typical of the reaction that you've seen outside of Beacon Hill?

I think the reaction has been pretty split based on who it's coming from, which kinds of groups. Mass Fiscal Alliance and other business groups are upset that, again, the short-term capital gains tax and other business-friendly measures are not in the Senate's plan.

But some progressive groups are happy that those aren't in there. They think that the focus is better and more appropriately directed toward lower income Bay Staters families, and renters.

And there's a lot of credits in this package aimed at housing and generating new housing development, which some supporters of the idea say is tackling the most pressing problem behind Massachusetts competitiveness, not how much we levy a tax on short term capital gains.

And when do we expect senators to dig into that plan?

That's going to happen this week. Amendments should be due early on in the week and we expect there to be quite a few amendments and a robust debate that is scheduled for Thursday.

One thing that could be a factor in all this, is that the state is still trying to grapple with the news that it could owe the US government as much as $2.5 billion. That's for improperly using federal funds to pay pandemic era unemployment payments. What's the latest with this, Chris?

We're still waiting to find out how much Massachusetts will owe back to the federal government, if we'll owe any of that money back to the federal government at all. Sounds like there's a pretty extensive review process underway to get to the bottom of that and what the implications are going to be.

Carrie Healy hosts the local broadcast of "Morning Edition" at NEPM. She also hosts the station’s weekly government and politics segment “Beacon Hill In 5” for broadcast radio and podcast syndication.
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