June 5, 2019
Submitted by: Molly Sullivan
Rasky Partners, Inc.
Budget season is underway at the State House. In January, the Governor released his budget recommendations, then the House followed suit with their budget proposal and debate in mid-April. This past month, Senate Ways and Means proposed their plans for FY20 funding and debated more than 1,100 budget amendments, many that included earmarks and appropriation increases to the nearly $43 billion budget. The Senate added on about $74 million in additional spending to the budget that Senate Ways and Means laid out earlier in the month.
The Senate budget funded MassHealth at a total of $16.55B to maintain access to affordable health care coverage for over 1.8 million people and invested $30 million to expand eligibility for the Medicare Savings Program. Unlike the House’s version of the budget, the Senate has chosen to include several of the new sources of revenue that Governor Baker laid out in his proposal. Specifically, the Senate has included the 15 percent tax on opioid manufacturers for sales dispensed in Massachusetts and a 75 percent tax on wholesale prices of e-cigarettes and related products.
The Governor’s budget included a proposal that would address the cost issue on prescription drug pricing. Under the proposal MassHealth can establish a ceiling for high cost drugs and if that does not produce agreement with drug manufacturers then the matter would be referred to the Health Policy Commission (HPC). If HPC found that prices were excessive then they could refer the matter to the Attorney General’s office for potential legal action under the consumer protection law. During the House budget debate, lawmakers adopted an amendment that reduced the Governor’s proposal and removed the Attorney Generals role. The Senate chose to include language similar to the Governor’s proposal. This will be a highly debated point of the budget as it heads to conference committee, where key leaders in both chambers will iron out the differences between the two spending plans.