By Alice Dembner, Globe Staff
The state's new subsidized health insurance program will cost "signficantly" more than the $869 million proposed in the governor's FY2009 budget just two months ago, the state's top financial official said today.
The budget gap looms despite steps taken today to hold down state costs -- approval of a tough contract with insurers, and increased premiums and copayments for about half of the 176,000 people enrolled.
"We have closed some of the fiscal gap here, but we have not closed most of it," said Leslie Kirwan, state secretary of administration and finance. She declined to quantify the gap in funding for the Commonwealth Care program, which is at the heart of the state's healthcare reform initiative.
Kirwan said the governor is asking all the powerful players that have supported healthcare reform to contribute to a solution. In the last two weeks, during closed-door meetings, several dozen proposals have been put forward, including raising assessments on insurers, hospitals and businesses.
Healthcare advocates had vehemently opposed the increased premiums and copayments for enrollees, arguing that the insurance would become unaffordable for many and that it was unfair to ask low-income people to contribute more without also asking more of businesses, hospitals and insurers.
The administration muted their criticisms by lowering the increases slightly and by agreeing to seek similar "sacrifices" from other parties.
The premiums will go up 10 percent on average. For example, people with incomes between $21,000 and $26,000 who are now paying $70 per month, will pay $77. Only those with incomes over about $15,000 pay any premiums.
Copayments will rise $5 for a primary-care doctor's visit and between $2.50 to $5 for generic drugs. For enrollees at the highest income levels covered in the program -- those making between $26,000 and $31,000 a year -- copayments for use of the emergency room and for outpatient surgery will also rise. For the first time, there will be caps on out-of-pocket expenses, adjusted by income level.
About white coat notes
|White Coat Notes covers the latest from the health care industry, hospitals, doctors offices, labs, insurers, and the corridors of government. Chelsea Conaboy previously covered health care for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @cconaboy.|
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