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Mass. has dropped thousands of residents from MassHealth. Where does that leave them?

Mike Levine, assistant secretary for MassHealth, holds up an envelope many Medicaid recipients have been receiving. The documents ask for more information to help determine if a person is eligible to continue receiving benefits.
Adam Frenier
Mike Levine, assistant secretary for MassHealth, holds up an envelope many Medicaid recipients have been receiving. The documents ask for more information to help determine if a person is eligible to continue receiving benefits.

A massive effort to redetermine Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance program eligibility for all MassHealth members is now about a third of the way through. The effort, mandated by the federal government, is so far closely tracking Gov. Maura Healey's administration's projections of losing 300,000 to 400,000 members. Chris Lisinski from the State House News Service reported on this and explains what officials are saying about those who lost coverage.

Chris Lisinksi, SHNS: So, given that we live in Massachusetts and state law requires everyone here to have health insurance or face a tax penalty, there are basically two, maybe three options. People who get booted from the MassHealth rolls can enroll in a private employer sponsored plan. They can go to the Health Connector, which is the state run marketplace, and select a non-subsidized plan there, or perhaps even a subsidized plan there if they qualify. Or they can just take the risk and take the tax penalty hit, go without insurance and face some kind of charges down the line.

We don't really know what the breakdown is between those three buckets. We have a rough sense of how many people are enrolling in the Health Connector plans after leaving MassHealth. But state officials say there's no real universal data system that tracks, when one person loses MassHealth, they go to "this" private employers plan. So, it's a little bit tough to tell.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: Do officials say anything about why some people are losing this coverage in the first place?

 Yeah, it's a combination of reasons. You know, as of right now, in Massachusetts most people are losing coverage because they are found no longer eligible.

Remember that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government barred states from redetermining and removing people from their Medicaid rolls. So it's been several years and people's circumstances might have changed since they first enrolled.

But still, a substantial [number] of people are losing MassHealth or Children's Health Insurance Program coverage because they simply do not respond to state inquiries or they're unable to give the state the kind of information needed to figure out if they're still eligible or not. Right now, about 40% of people fall into that bucket, maybe 45%. State officials expect that that's going to climb higher as they continue the process of reaching out to more people.

Following multiple delays, the Springfield based MBTA car manufacturer CRRC continues to crank out product for the troubled Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority. Chris, CRRC has been contracted to build more than 400 new red and orange line cars for the T. So how's that coming?

It's coming, okay, I suppose. We still don't know what the actual timeline, what the actual forecast is for completion of this contract. It's been delayed multiple times. You know, the latest update we got is that CRRC is still working on a final timeline.

But in the meantime, officials are saying they're fairly satisfied. They think that the cars they are getting are performing very well, going longer between issues than was actually required under the contract. So there is a glass half full outlook here at play.

 And are the current issues with the T more track based than car based?

 I'd say so. I'd say the majority at this point. You know, when you hear about the slow zones that have become so infamous in the past few months, all of that is track based problems with the rail infrastructure that, for whatever reason that still has not been made known to the public, were not caught previously.

 As we approach the new school year, Massachusetts community colleges are rapidly preparing for an influx of new students age 25 and older. They'll be attending through a new program called MassReconnect, which will basically cover community college costs for those students. The goal here, of course, is to get workforce ready residents. But it could also end a decades long, steep enrollment drop at the state's 15 community colleges. What are lawmakers saying?

Yeah, we haven't heard that specific point raised all too often, but it's absolutely a good one. Community colleges have been facing enrollment declines, fighting demographic trends for years now, and this is a way that they could see new people at their doors. I believe that the estimates are up to 8,000 students are going to participate in MassReconnect in the first year, possibly expanding in subsequent years. This is definitely going to be something that generates a lot more interest in these campuses.
And Chris, I think we should share that you and I have conferred and decided to take Labor Day off, like the lawmakers at the State House. You predicted the week of Labor Day next week to did you characterize it?
Oh, that's a good question! I think I characterized it as just about as slow as August has been. You know, unlike schools, lawmakers do not have a firm return to classroom date right after Labor Day. It's after Labor Day. They start thinking about maybe getting back to work sometime in the next few weeks.


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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