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Republican Health Bill Would Push Uninsured Above 10 Percent In Massachusetts, Study Finds

Massachusetts Health Connector

A detailed analysis of the health care bill approved by House Republicans in Washington says Massachusetts would be hit particularly hard if it becomes law. 

 Massachusetts, which has for years led the nation with the lowest percentage of state residents without health insurance, could see its uninsured rate go above 10 percent according to an analysis of the bill known as the American Health Care Act. 

Health care advocates in Massachusetts called the report’s conclusions “devastating.”

   The Urban Institute, a Washington-based think tank, said the House bill, which would repeal large portions of the Affordable Care Act, would cut federal Medicaid funding for Massachusetts by $1.4 billion by 2022. 

Unless the state finds a way to replace the funding, about 355,000 adults would be dropped from MassHealth, the state’s health insurance program for low-income people. Another 90,000 people who purchase plans from the state’s insurance exchange, the Health Connector, would see their subsidies reduced, making the insurance unaffordable.

  As a result, 10.3 percent of Massachusetts adults would be left without health insurance according to this study.  Currently, the state’s uninsured rate is 2.8 percent according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The rate was 8.5 percent in 2005, the year before Massachusetts passed its own health coverage law that became the model for the federal law known as Obamacare.

  If the House bill becomes law it would be a serious setback for Massachusetts, according to Deborah Hollingworth, a veteran social worker.

"It will devastate Massachusetts," said Hollingworth. " Over the last ten years we've seen such improvement in people being insured.  It is just hard to see an erosion of that safety net for the folks who are most vulnerable. It's tough."

Hollingworth is a resources advisor at Greater Springfield Senior Services, which despite the name has clients of all ages.

She was presented with an award for her work in the human services field at a regional conference of social workers attended by more than 300 people Wednesday at Western New England University.

Hollingworth urged her colleagues to protest the policy changes backed by House Republicans and President Trump.

"We need more vigils, more taking to the streets, more political activity, all of that," said Hollingworth.

Conference keynote speaker Shaheer Mustafa, president and CEO of Dare Family Services, also decried potential cuts to subsidized health care for low-income people.

" Healthcare I personally believe is a fundamental human right," said Mustafa.

The Urban Institute study was commissioned by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation on behalf of several groups that oppose repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, opposes the House bill. He sent a letter to Senators last week saying it poses a “significant threat” to Massachusetts.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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