NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

May 15, 2014

House battles over Health Connector fiasco

(Continued)

The bill also includes $11.3 million for the Department of Developmental Services to cover operational expenses of the Fernald Development Center in Waltham, a school for the developmentally disabled that has been slated for several years to close but, for various reasons, remains open and must be funded, according to officials.

House Democrats rejected a Republican proposal to hold back $65 million from the Health Connector Authority until the agency provides a report to the Legislature detailing the costs associated with the failed enrollment website. Democrats argued it is unnecessary.

Rep. Stephen Kulik, a Democrat from Worthington, said the Patrick administration agreed last month to provide the information, while House Minority Leader Bradley Jones argued that lawmakers should hold the money as leverage after weeks have passed without any additional information.

“We are going to continue to go down this path and we are never going to have a full picture or a full accounting until the hand-off comes for the next governor,” Jones said on the House floor. “The next governor is going to open that drawer and say, ‘Oh my God, we have to cover all these expenses.’ ”

Massachusetts was once the “shining leader” in universal health care coverage, Jones said, adding, “We royally screwed it up. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask what does the bill for that debacle look like?”

Rep. Jay Barrows (D-Mansfield), a member of the Health Care Financing Committee, said the committee asked Connector officials for the costs a month ago. “So far it has been crickets,” he said.

Public Health Committee Co-chairman Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez said he appreciated the bid to force transparency, but added, “To get to this point where we say ‘Give us the information and until you give us that information we’re not going to let go of the money,’ I don’t think that’s the best way to go.”

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