A diverse coalition of organizations ranging from AIM to groups representing human services providers and home-care aides urged key legislators today not to extend the two-year assessment imposed on employers last year to close a financial gap at the state’s MassHealth insurance program.
In a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chair Aaron M. Michlewitz and Vice Chair Denise C. Garlick, the coalition says that the “burden of the (Employer Medical Assistance Contribution) EMAC Supplement falls particularly on certain industries, especially small employers with lower wage workers, many of whom are paid via state contracts.”
“This unbudgeted and unanticipated expense is threatening employers’ ability to make critically needed investments in our workforce and to maintain vital programs that support vulnerable members of our communities.”
The Ways and Means Committee is currently developing the state budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1.
AIM has already urged the Legislature to end the EMAC assessment immediately because employers last year paid tens of millions of dollars more than anticipated under the levy. Businesses are on track to contribute some $519 million by the time the assessment sunsets at the end of this year instead of the $400 million envisioned under the 2017 legislation.
At the same time, enrollment in MassHealth has fallen as the Baker Administration has initiated steps to ensure that only people eligible for benefits receive them.
The Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA) recently indicated that, in calendar year 2017, total MassHealth spending decreased by 0.2 percent, driven in part by a 2.4 percent decrease in enrollment. The trend indicates relief from the pressures of enrollment increases that have plagued the MassHealth program in recent years and produced the fiscal deficit that resulted in the EMAC Supplement policy.
“The conditions that led to the imposition of the surcharge no longer exist. Employers who have paid hundreds of millions of dollars in assessments believe it is fair to look at ending the surcharge in year two,” said John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.
The next round of EMAC supplement billings will be delivered to employers in the next week.
The members of the coalition include BAMSI (Brockton Area Multi-Services, Inc.), Building Trades Employers’ Association, Home Care Aide Council, MAB Community Services, Massachusetts Staffing Association, New England MCA/MSCA, Providers’ Council, The ERISA Industry Committee, Italian Home for Children, Massachusetts Senior Care Association, the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Springfield Chamber of Commerce.
The coalition said the EMAC supplement has raised costs for Massachusetts nursing facilities alone by more than $16 million.
“As a Commonwealth, we face a renewed imperative to lower the cost of health insurance for everyone in Massachusetts via long-term, efficient strategies. Short-term, unpredictable financial obligations like the EMAC Supplement tax serve only to deter business expansion and employee recruitment, and to reduce our ability to provide vital services,” the group wrote.
The Legislature passed the assessment in July 2017 minus a set of structural reforms proposed by Governor Baker to place the MassHealth/Medicaid program on a firm financial footing. The surcharge raised the EMAC assessment from $51 to $77 per employee. Employers also were required to pay up to $750 for each worker who receives public health benefits.
Employers may request a waiver from the fees if they prove a hardship. Of 246 such waiver requests, administration officials said they have allowed 99.