Last week, Sen. DiDomenico testified before the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing in support of three pieces of legislation he filed this session: S.761/H.1290, An Act to streamline access to critical public health and safety-net programs through common applications, S.762/H.1309, An Act to ensure equitable access to health coverage for children, and S.763/H.1310, An Act to ensure equitable health coverage for children with disabilities.
An Act to streamline access to critical public health and safety-net programs through common applications, also known as the “SNAP Gap” bill, is one of Senator DiDomenico’s top food security policy priorities this session. The SNAP Gap refers to number of children, families, and elders who receive healthcare benefits through MassHealth or Medicare and are likely eligible for the federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) but are not receiving any food assistance. In Massachusetts, the SNAP Gap is estimated to be approximately 740,000 people.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity had been a pressing problem across the United States, and especially in the Commonwealth. The pandemic has now shed a stark light on the state of Massachusetts, further exacerbating rates of food insecurity, with a 59% increase across the board and 102% increase in children. Senator DiDomenico’s bill S.761 aims to close the SNAP Gap by allowing low-income residents to apply for SNAP at the same time as MassHealth and the Medicare Savings Program, streamlining the application process, removing barriers, and ultimately reducing hunger.
“SNAP is a 100% federally funded benefit, and until we close the SNAP Gap, we are simply leaving thousands of federal dollars on the table,” said DiDomenico in his testimony. “This is unconscionable, especially at a time when we are experiencing more food insecurity in Massachusetts than ever before. As we continue facing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, this bill should be a top priority for the Legislature to connect our residents with the assistance they need and deserve.”
Senator DiDomenico also testified in support of two other pieces of legislation he filed in partnership with the organization Health Care for All (HCFA), to ensure that all kids in the Commonwealth have equitable healthcare coverage. Currently in the Commonwealth, over 30,000 children and young adults are not eligible to receive comprehensive coverage under MassHealth simply due to their immigration status. Of those youths who are ineligible, approximately 1,650 are also challenged with disabilities.
An Act to ensure equitable health coverage for children would expand comprehensive MassHealth coverage to all young people under age 21 whose only barrier to eligibility is immigration status. An Act to ensure equitable access to health coverage for children with disabilities would expand MassHealth CommonHealth to undocumented children (through age 18) and low-income young adults (ages 19-20) with disabilities. The goal of both bills is to advance the Commonwealth’s goals of promoting health equity by taking steps towards universal coverage for children.
Testifying before the committee, DiDomenico stated: “Every child deserves access to comprehensive health coverage, and these bills will reduce barriers to care for thousands of immigrant children in Massachusetts. Especially as immigrant communities have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, we cannot allow immigration status to disqualify otherwise-eligible children and young adults from MassHealth. The consequences of denying them healthcare are long-lasting and far-reaching. Children with inadequate healthcare are more likely to suffer from chronic illnesses, as well as physical or developmental disabilities, into their adult lives.”
Furthermore, he emphasized: “Both bills will break this cycle by knocking down barriers and expanding comprehensive health coverage. Simply put, we must cover all kids.”