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Council hosts forum with EOHHS Secretary, providers

Executive Office of Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders recapped recent successes, looked ahead to Fiscal 2018 and took questions from providers at the Providers’ Council’s annual Administration and Finance Forum on Dec. 12.

Taking place about a week after Gov. Charlie Baker announced mid-year spending cuts to the FY ’17 budget, the ANF Forum drew more than 80 health and human services executives from around the state.

Sudders, saying she’s learned a lot of interesting things in nearly two years at the helm of EOHHS, cited changes to OSD regulations – notably Surplus Revenue Retention – as having a positive impact on the community-based provider sector. She also noted that the Administration has worked diligently to set rates and meet the requirements of Chapter 257.

“I’m hoping people feel moderately OK on 257 since we’ve taken over the process,” she said. “In (fiscal year) 2017 we committed $51 million to rate increases and we’re working on our commitment for FY ’18.”

She said that the Administration has “no appetite to be cutting things,” but the Massachusetts economy continues to be soft in terms of revenue coming in to the state coffers. She added the Administration’s FY ’18 budget will probably look similar to the current one. The EOHHS budget, which includes MassHealth, comprises more than half of the $38 billion state budget.

Sudders also spoke about the $54.2 billion Medicaid waiver the state recently secured from the federal government that will allow Massachusetts to continue to create accountable care organizations (ACO), saying she doesn’t expect it to be rescinded by the incoming president.

Sudders also said she was very pleased by a recent Supreme Judicial Court ruling that will allow for the privatization of emergency behavioral health services in the southeastern part of the state, calling it the first successful major challenge to the Pacheco Law.

The secretary took several questions and closed by giving providers a challenge. Noting that the Governor was in Israel learning about tech solutions to health and human service issues and acknowledging the staffing shortages in the Massachusetts human services sector, Sudders said she wants to know from providers if there are “tech solutions to some of the things we need to do.”