Editorial: Healthy waiver

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Sen. Ted Kennedy is supposed to be taking it easy at Hyannisport while his cancer treatments continue, but the lion of the Senate has found the energy required to deliver a fiscal lifeline for his home state.

The fate of Massachusetts' landmark health care reform law has hung in the balance for months. That law, which is 2 years old today, has helped nearly 440,000 previously uninsured residents get affordable coverage. But it is expensive and, as with all health care, getting more expensive all the time.

The finances of the reform law depend on funding for Medicaid, the state and federal program that helps provide health care for families that can't afford it. Since federal Medicaid funds typically pay for emergency room and clinic-based care, a federal waiver has been required to use those funds for insurance subsidies.

The federal waiver expired at the end of June, and state officials have been negotiating for months to get an extension. Without the waiver, state officials might have to redesign the program, raise eligibility requirements or throw millions more in state funding at the problem. With the economy sliding and the state budget already in deficit, the choices would indeed be painful.

But Kennedy has been on a mission to create universal health care for 40 years, and he played a key role in getting the Massachusetts program enacted. He, Gov. Deval Patrick and other officials in Washington and Boston have worked hard for the waiver, and yesterday it was officially granted.

The three-year waiver is worth $21.2 billion to the state, an increase of $4.3 billion over the previous agreement. There's still work to be done to ensure the health reform law keeps its promise, notably in the area of cost containment, but the Medicaid waiver gives the state the time and resources it needs to keep the program healthy. All who have benefited from it should hope Kennedy regains his health as well.

The MetroWest Daily News