The behavioral health workforce in Massachusetts is in crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the prevalence of behavioral health issues and demand for services, exposing and aggravating the vulnerabilities of Massachusetts’ behavioral health workforce and delivery system. Health care, including behavioral health care, has been among the industries hardest hit by the “Great Resignation,” exacerbating workforce shortages that predated the pandemic.
Massachusetts administers much of MassHealth through an 1115 Demonstration waiver, approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which it has extended several times since it was originally approved in 1995. In December 2021, Massachusetts submitted a request to CMS to extend its Demonstration for another five years.
UPDATED! Promoting Access to Care and Coverage During a Public Health Crisis: COVID-19–Related Changes Affecting MassHealth, Health Connector, and Health Safety Net
Massachusetts, with support from the federal government, has implemented several policy and programmatic changes intended to promote continued access to health care services and health insurance coverage during the COVID-19 public health emergency. This table serves as a centralized resource that documents and describes the policy, regulatory, and administrative actions pertaining to MassHealth, Health Connector programs, and the Health Safety Net.
The Foundation has committed to base its work in the structural racism and racial inequities in health focus area on issues raised by the communities and community members experiencing racism and health inequities. To that end, the Foundation partnered with established community-based organizations across the state to convene focus groups featuring the perspectives of community members on how racism impacts health and access to health care services. A total of seven focus groups, organized geographically, were held virtually.
The End of the Federal Continuous Coverage Requirement in MassHealth: Key Strategies for Reducing Coverage Loss
This issue brief aims to educate stakeholders and policymakers about an upcoming federal policy change that could impact coverage for many MassHealth members. Like all states, Massachusetts received enhanced federal Medicaid funding under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), the first major federal stimulus package passed by Congress in response to the COVID-19 crisis in 2020. As a condition of receiving these funds, Massachusetts is required to maintain continuous coverage in MassHealth during the federal COVID-19 public health emergency.
In December 2021, Governor Baker signed Chapter 102 of the Acts of 2021 into law. This legislation, often referred to as the “ARPA bill,” appropriates close to $4 billion, including $2.55 billion in funding directly from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). ARPA was passed in March 2021 to provide money to states to start recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Chapter 102 invests money from ARPA in many areas, including housing, infrastructure, education, and economic development.
Expanded Coverage and Savings: Effects in Massachusetts of Extending the American Rescue Plan Act's Enhanced Marketplace Subsidies
This report provides an analysis of the impacts of the enhanced premium subsidies for purchasing health insurance through the Marketplace, or Health Connector in Massachusetts, that the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) temporarily authorized through 2022.
The goal of this study was to better understand whether Primary Care Providers (PCPs) identify a need for a PCP-to-behavioral health (BH) provider consultation program for adult patients with mental health conditions and substance use disorders (SUDs), and whether they would utilize such a program. Additionally, the study sought to understand the type of BH conditions providers encounter, the proportion of adult primary care patients with BH needs, and the challenges PCPs face in supporting adult patients with BH conditions.
Behavioral Health During the First Year of the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Update on Need and Access in Massachusetts 2020/2021
This brief provides an updated snapshot of the need for behavioral health care and experiences accessing it in the Commonwealth as of 2020/2021, based on a new survey commissioned by the Foundation. This survey was fielded by NORC at the University of Chicago between December 2020 and March 2021 and gathered information on the need for and access to behavioral health care among Massachusetts adults ages 19 and older and their close relatives.
Racism and Racial Inequities in Health: A Data-Informed Primer on Health Disparities in Massachusetts
This primer serves as a foundational resource to broaden the collective understanding of racial and ethnic health inequities and disparities in the Commonwealth as part of our new focus area of Structural Racism and Racial Inequities in Health.
As a program that provides publicly-funded health benefits to more than 2 million low-income children and families, seniors and people living with disabilities in Massachusetts, it is not surprising that MassHealth accounts for a large share of the state’s budget. However, a cursory review of the MassHealth budget can be misleading because it can obscure the billions of dollars in federal revenue that the program generates for the state.
In response to the health and economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in March 2021, which makes $1.9 trillion available to individuals, states and territories, counties, cities, community organizations, educational institutions, and other entities. Some funds are intended to shore up or even expand programs and agencies that have been depleted during the pandemic, while other funds are designated or available to create new programs.
Value-Based Payment to Support Children’s Health and Wellness: Shifting the Focus from Short-Term to Life Course Impact
Health care payers, providers, and policymakers are increasingly pursuing value-based payment (VBP) to improve the quality of care and population health while controlling rising health care costs. When implemented in Medicaid, VBP programs often include children and adults in the same model, though these models may not fully account for children’s distinct health needs.
Addressing timely access to behavioral health care through the adoption of open access methods supports the well-being of people with behavioral health conditions, improves staff productivity, and increases financial stability for provider organizations. However, no study has previously documented the experience of provider organizations using this model in Massachusetts.
This budget brief highlights the state fiscal year (SFY) 2021 budget – which ran from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021 – for MassHealth and other health reform programs. The SFY21 budget was delayed by six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic challenges and fiscal uncertainty. Included within the budget was $18.9 billion designated for health care coverage programs and related operational expenses.