July 24, 2017
Disability Policy Consortium Weekly Update

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The Governor appears to be making a major move against MassHealth.  The Baker Administration is asking the Legislature and the Trump Administration for unprecedented power over MassHealth services under the cloak of "flexibility."  This is sad because the Governor has been courageous in his opposition to repealing the Affordable Care Act.  However, he has now chosen to use the Trump Administration's hatred of government funded health coverage to seek major cuts.

We have three updates for you this week on projects here at the DPC.  We especially draw your attention to a survey we are conducting on EVV.  We would appreciate your input. 

We are also pleased to announce our award recipients for 2017.  The DPC Board has picked three incredible individuals for the honors this year.

Unfortunately, the Governor has vetoed our joint effort with BCIL for more housing money.  Also this week the Governor is also trying to make some major changes in MassHealth and health care in Massachusetts.  We will update you soon on these efforts.

As always happy reading.

John Winske
Disability Policy Consortium
Editorial: Governor's Proposal Threatens MassHealth Services Including PCA Services

Late on Friday, hearings were announced on the Governor's proposals to overhaul MassHealth and health care in Massachusetts

When:  Tuesday, July 25th, 10:00 am, 

Where:  State House, Gardner Auditorium
Joint Committee on Ways & Means and the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing will hold a public oversight hearing with testimony from invited parties and the public relative to Medicaid funding and other related issues relative to the FY2018 budget. 

And then

When:  Tuesday, July 25th, 1 pm, 

Where:  State House, Room 437

On Friday, the Statehouse House Ways and Means announced that it would be holding hearings on Tuesday, July 25 on proposed sweeping changes to MassHealth by the Baker administration. An Act promoting affordable health care options, Bill H.3829 is an attempt by the administration to "align" MassHealth practices with those of commercial plans. 

These are the same commercial plans that deny wheelchairs, medical supplies and provide no coverage of PCAs. These are the commercial plans Medicaid has created to protect low income and people with disabilities from falling prey to, because we are "unprofitable."  If passed, the legislation will give the Baker administration the power to charge outrageous premiums and deductibles. DPC opposes both the legislation and the legislature's decision to not provide advocates proper notice for the hearings.

These plans will harm thousands of people in Massachusetts currently on MassHealth who are identified in the legislation as "not disabled." However, the legislation harms disabled and non-disabled alike. It will give MassHealth the authority to:
  • cut pharmacy benefits for all people on MassHealth with or without disabilities.
  • potentially cut "optional" services. It would give the Administration the power to cut "optional services unilaterally.  This includes PCA services, durable medical equipment, dental services prescription eye wear, adult foster care to name a few.
  • Toss thousands of people with incomes between 100% in 133% of the poverty level off MassHealth and onto ConnectorCare, reducing benefits and increasing out-of-pocket cost for hundreds of PCAs and family members of people with disabilities. ConnectorCare acts just like a commercial plan forcing people to choose between different levels of co-pays and premiums.
DPC is shocked that the Baker administration is seeking carte blanche or complete freedom in cutting services while at the same time:
  • Entering into a multi-million dollar contract with Optum Global Healthcare to do prior authorization of all LTSS with the explicit goal of reducing cost.
  • Moving the majority of MassHealth members into Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) as a means of making healthcare more efficient and cost less.
We are disappointed with the late notice for the hearings given the large-scale changes being requested and the harm that will be done to hundreds of thousands of MassHealth members.   We urge you to call your state legislators and remind them  how important MassHealth is to you.  Ask them to not to weaken their oversight of MassHealth.

Dennis Heaphy
DPC Update:  Award Winners Announced

The DPC is pleased to announce that our Annual Reception and Awards Ceremony will be held on Thursday, October 12th at the Non-Profit Center at 89 South Street in Boston.

This year we will be honoring three outstanding advocates; Christine Griffin from the Disability Law Center, Jim Kruidenier of Stavros and Heather Watkins co-founder if Divas with DisAbilities.  

Joining the DPC again as lead sponsor will be Commonwealth Care Alliance.  CCA has been the lead sponsor for all five years of the DPC event.  Also signing up as major sponsors are the Association for Behavioral Healthcare and Health Management Associates.  We are so pleased to have such great supporters.

Watch this space for additional event announcements.
DPC News:  We Need Your Input on EVV 

MassHealth has contracted with a for-profit national corporation to manage most of the state's Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS). The corporation, Optum Government Solutions, will manage responsibilities once carried out by the state. This includes prior authorization of services including the new Electronic Visit Verification (EVV) system, which will use Global Positioning System (GPS) to track the start and end time, as well as location of services provided by PCAs for consumers. With limited exception, the state plans for all consumers and PCAs to use an electronic check in and check out device by the end of 2018.
 
The Disability Policy Consortium (DPC) is conducting a short survey aimed to understand consumer's awareness and opinions about the EVV system. The survey should take about 15 minutes to complete. This information will help guide our advocacy activities and we will report our findings to consumers. Please complete the survey once!
 
If you have any questions about EVV, we encourage you to call DPC and speak with Maggie Sheets or Lenny Somervell at 617-542-3822.

DPC News: Governor Baker Vetoes New Money for AHVP 

Unfortunately, Governor Baker has not spared the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP) in his fairly comprehensive set of vetoes to housing programs in the FY '18 budget. 

While the legislature increased funding to AHVP by $400,000, bringing the total funding up to $5 million, the Governor chose to veto the increase.  The program, which has a waiting list of well over 1500 people is not worthy of an increase and can make do with level funding. 

All is not lost, as a veto override is still possible with support from two-thirds of the legislature. Please call your state senator and representative and ask them to support a veto override of line-item 7004-9030, the Alternative Housing Voucher Program, to support the independence of people with disabilities through stable housing.

BCIL led the effort for increased funding through the HALT committee for the last three years with support from the DPC.
Health Care Update: Another Week, Another Strange Twist

So health care reform in the U.S. Senate has been on again, off again and then on again this week.  In the period of 48 hours the President had four different stances.  Seriously.  You could not make this stuff up if you tried.

On Monday, the Senate President,  Mitch McConnell, announced there would be a vote on health care repeal and replace.  Then it became apparent he did not have the votes (50) to bring the issue up for a vote because three moderate Republicans and two conservative Senators were opposed.

The President then called on the Senate to just repeal ObamaCare and decide later how to replace it.

McConnell no sooner announced a vote on that scheme, then it was rejected by the moderate Senators.  It then looked like health care reform was dead for this year.

Then the President called all Republican Senators to the White House to urge them to work something out.

Heavy pressure is being put on Republicans Senator Susan Collins of Maine, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.

There will likely be a last gasp effort this week.  

Adding to all the confusion was the announcement that Senator John McCain of Arizona has the same type of brain cancer that felled Senator Ted Kennedy.  

Please contact the Senators and ask them to oppose the repeal of ObamaCare.

Calendar:  Boston ADA Celebration Day

When: Tuesday, July 25, 2017, Noon - 2:00 P.M.

Where:  Boston City Hall Plaza. Boston City Hall

A free event for children, families, and individuals of all abilities!

ADA Celebration Day is a yearly celebration of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is held in Boston around the last week of July near the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act signing. Each year, we honor a local organization that has made an impact on accessibility or inclusion in Boston. ADA Celebration Day is an event for people of all ages and all abilities to come together and celebrate a milestone in the disability community.

The public is invited to join us for:
  • food
  • music
  • a resource fair
  • friends, and
  • fun
ASL and CART provided. This is a scent free event. For additional accommodation requests, call 617-635-3682 or e-mail disability@boston.gov.

Calendar:  MassHealth Listening Sessions

Listening session #1:

When:  Friday, August 4, 2017,  9:00-11:00 am

Where:  1 Ashburton Place, 21st floor, Boston

Conference Line: (888) 822-7517 / Participant Code: 163 4530#

Listening session #2:

When:  Wednesday, August 16, 2017, 10:00 am-12:00 pm

Where: Castle of Knights, 1599 Memorial Drive, Chicopee, MA

Conference Line: (888) 822-7517 / Participant Code: 163 4530#

For more information please see the editorial above.

Written comments are due by August 21st and can be emailed to kaela.konefal@state.ma.us.
Calendar:  Governor Charles D. Baker's Council Aging in Massachusetts - Community Listening Sessions

July 25, 2017, 9:00 A.M. - 11:00 A.M.
Barnstable Senior Center

August 2, 2017, 10:00 A.M. - 12:00 P.M.
Elder Services of Berkshire County

Governor Charles D. Baker's Council to Address Aging in Massachusetts will hold listening sessions to hear ideas about how to make the Commonwealth the most livable state for people of all ages. Join us to make an impact on your community!

Specifically, we would like to hear about:
  • What factors make your community a great place to grow older?
  • How can we support families that include one or more older adults?
  • How can we promote more human connectedness (reduce loneliness, isolation) in communities?
  •  What are the top two issues or concerns that create barriers to people
  • being able to age well in their communities?
  • How can we accelerate innovation to support and connect older adults?
  • How can we change public perceptions about aging?
 If you are unable to attend please share your ideas by sending an email
to agingconversation@state.ma.us.

Reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities are available upon request.  Please
contact William Travascio at 617-222-7579 or at William.Travascio@MassMail.State.MA.US.
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