The report lays out the recommended health care priorities for the Healey administration

By Michael P. Norton | State House News Office

To address the current set of health care challenges, state officials in the new year must create a cabinet-level capital secretary, cap the allowable growth in consumer out-of-pocket insurance costs and develop a 10-year workforce plan in health care, according to a new report.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts framed its report as priorities for the incoming administration of Gov.-elect Maura Healey, who is set to take office in less than a month and begin work on public policy and spending measures with the Democratic-controlled House and Senate . The report’s authors based their conclusions on feedback solicited during interviews conducted between February and May from a “broad and diverse” group of stakeholders and leaders in the health sector, which are listed in the report’s methodology appendix.

Ensuring accessibility for users was one of the five priorities noted in the report. According to the report, which was compiled with the help of Manatt Health, 41 percent of residents said they or their family had problems affording health care in the past 12 months, and one-third of middle-class Massachusetts families are sponsored by an employer insurance spends more than a quarter of its income on health care.

The report recommends expanding ConnectorCare eligibility to more lower-income people and funding a new “affordable coverage program” for low-income immigrants who don’t have access to government-funded programs like MassHealth or Affordable Care Act coverage through the Health Connector Authority.

From a regulatory perspective, the report calls for expanding the powers of the state’s health policy commission, which has a mandate to control spending. Recommendations include giving the agency more power to enforce cost growth benchmarks, weaving provider price caps into benchmarks, as other states have done, and capping annual growth in consumer premiums, deductibles and co-pays by creating of consumer spending growth indicator.

Addressing systemic racism and health care inequities is another key recommendation, and the report calls for new laws that overhaul the structure of state government to ensure that a vision of equity is implemented across all departments and agencies. One recommendation is a new Capital Secretary to oversee a Cabinet-level Capital Executive Office, as well as the creation of Capital Offices in the nine other Cabinet Secretariats.

According to the report, blacks and Hispanics are more than twice as likely as whites to be uninsured, less likely to report being in excellent or very good health, and to report higher levels of “fair or poor ” mental health.

The report calls on state leaders to “break new ground in creating a government culture and approach to health policy development that engages a diversity of people with lived experiences—community members and community leaders—who can help state leaders understand root causes and the impact of these challenges and to engage in co-designing solutions.”

The other three top priorities are tackling the child and youth mental health crisis, mitigating the “critical” health workforce shortage, and improving access to long-term services and supports, including long-term care.

The report said that between 2016 and 2020, the share of children ages 3 to 17 in Massachusetts who had anxiety or depression jumped from 12.2 percent to 18.4 percent, a 50 % raise. He anonymously quotes one “health plan leader” as saying, “We can’t afford to say ‘kids are resilient’ anymore. It was an excuse for inaction.”

The report recommends the creation of a Cabinet for Children and Youth to improve the mental health of children and youth; developing a 10-year workforce plan that prioritizes long-term supports and services, long-term care, and behavioral health; and promoting the purchase of private long-term care insurance through a federal long-term care partnership program, while standardizing state oversight of long-term care beneficiary protections and rates.

“With the new administration taking shape on Beacon Hill, our goal is to encourage action on today’s most pressing health care challenges,” Audrey Shelto, president and CEO of BCBS of Mass., said in a statement. Foundation. “Fortunately, state leaders do not have to start from scratch, as many of the action steps identified in our report build on existing or proposed initiatives. Addressing these issues, however, will require bold leadership, a collaborative approach and long-term focus and investment.”

A panel of healthcare experts and insiders will discuss the report at a morning event Thursday at The Colonnade Hotel in Boston.

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