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Blue envelopes could mean uncertain times for many people now on MassHealth

Mass. Gov. Maura Healey grasps the hand of Sen. Michael Rogridgues, who sits on a legislative budget writers panel. They began their month-long inspection of Gov. Maura Healey's $55.5 billion state budget last week.
State House News Service
Mass. Gov. Maura Healey grasps the hand of Sen. Michael Rogridgues, who sits on a legislative budget writers panel. They began their month-long inspection of Gov. Maura Healey's $55.5 billion state budget last week.

Hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents could lose their state run health insurance as a major eligibility check takes place. The good news is that MassHealth said last week about half of those on MassHealth will be automatically renewed, but that more than a million others will get a blue envelope in the mail.

Chris Lisinski of the State House News Service explains what action a blue envelope will need.

Chris Lisinksi, State House News Service: This is the first time in several years that people who receive MassHealth coverage are going to need to take action to keep themselves covered by that. Now that some pandemic era policies are expiring, if anyone gets a blue envelope in the mail, it kicks off a pretty clear calendar that requires some action. Residents will have 45 days from getting that to respond. They might have another 90 day period if MassHealth officials decide they need some more information. The biggest ticking clock is if someone is determined no longer eligible for MassHealth coverage, they're going to get a two week period, 14 days, to switch over to something on the MassHealth Connector, which can help find other subsidized insurance coverage or switch on to, say, an insurer plan, something like that. So blue envelopes mean the clock is ticking and that action is required to avoid completely losing health insurance.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: Last week, the Massachusetts Senate passed its own version of Governor Healey's supplemental budget. That's the bill that funds a portion of additional SNAP or food stamp benefits for three more months. Now, between the version passed by the House and the Senate, there were some disagreements over funding priorities. Can you outline some of the adjustments that senators made and when the legislature will get that to Healey for signing?

The biggest bottom-line adjustment is the Senate is pushing to include a full $200 million in bonds for microelectronics grants that Governor Healey has sought. This is for stuff like receiving federal grants available under the [recently passed] CHIPS Act, competing for that. The House left that at roughly $50 million. So, the Senate is seeking four times as much money on that front.

Another key difference here is that senators did not authorize another year of cocktails to go, which the House did authorize. So, a pretty big consumer pressure point there.

We should see that go into private conference committee negotiations this week. And when it comes out of that is anyone's guess. We'd venture a rough estimate that it's going to be quicker than some conference committees can be, given the time sensitive spending for SNAP school aid and emergency shelter.

New state auditor Diana DiZoglio has followed through on a campaign promise. She's launched an audit of the Legislature. She previously served in both branches. Now she's [announced] this audit push, which her predecessor said was not allowed under the law. So, what's going on here?

Yes, Auditor DiZoglio is just moving full steam ahead. She believes that she does indeed have the legal authority to conduct an audit of the Legislature, despite her predecessor’s disagreement and some comments from Senate President [Karen] Spilka's office that seems to indicate the Senate is in charge of its own self auditing.

DiZoglio is willing to take on a risk here, and it’s a pretty big political risk for her to pursue the kind of information she's seeking and open up insight into the Legislature. And it's not just DiZoglio who has drawn criticism from watchdog groups, it has even come from national rankings.

And finally, Massachusetts elected officials have been working for years to get federal funding to replace the aging and what they call functionally obsolete bridges across the Cape Cod Canal. As we near spring, is it likely vacationers this summer are going to encounter the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges under construction? What's the latest there?

I don't think it's likely you're going to see much construction this summer, but we did get a pretty significant voice added to the fight last week, President Joe Biden announced that he included$350 million, part of a $600 million commitment in his federal fiscal 2024 budget proposal to help replace the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges. There's no guarantee that funding actually survives debate about the budget, but it is a sign that the Biden administration is warming to this project after executive agencies that Biden controls rejected previous grant applications.

Carrie Healy hosts the local broadcast of "Morning Edition" at NEPM. She also hosts the station’s weekly government and politics segment “Beacon Hill In 5” for broadcast radio and podcast syndication.