State to Boost Payments to Community Health Centers in What Officials Call a ‘Game Changer’

Greater Lawrence Family Health Center’s Rich Napolitano, senior vice president of external relations and chief strategy office, presents the Making a Difference Award to Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. (Courtesy photograph.)

Community health centers across the state, including Greater Lawrence Family Health Center with locations in Lawrence, Haverhill and Methuen, are receiving a boost in various state reimbursements.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration said it will increase state MassHealth payments beginning next year, and, in the meantime, provide grants for ongoing efforts to increase vaccine acceptance and one-time supplemental funding.

“Community Health Centers are essential partners of our MassHealth program, providing a robust range of community-based health care and serving as a as a trusted source of medical care for vulnerable communities across the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders. She said community health centers played “a vital role in ensuring access to health care services” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

MassHealth rate increases will result in more than $100 million in receipts for 33 health centers in 2022 and up to $600 million in new backing over the next five years. This includes a minimum increase of 33% by health center for medical and psychiatry visits, a 65% rate increase for dental services and doubling rates for behavioral health visits. On average, the health centers will receive a $3.6 million increase in payments from MassHealth on an annual basis. Going forward, payment for these services will grow year-over-year to account for inflation and service changes.

The Department of Public Health is also providing $3.1 million to support ongoing efforts to increase vaccine acceptance and access among residents who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. The money is being used to expand the existing Community Health Worker Ambassador Program to increase vaccine acceptance in historically marginalized communities.

“The magnitude of these investments is a game-changer for health centers and the patients they serve,” said Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers President and CEO Michael Curry. “The implementation of a new payment methodology and resulting historic rate increases reflect a powerful commitment to primary care that will help us meet the depths of demand for medical, behavioral health and dental services in our high-need communities, and truly begin to move the needle on health equity across Massachusetts.”

Rate increases go into effect Jan. 1, 2022. This summer, however, MassHealth will provide $45 million in supplemental funding as a bridge until the new rates are in place.

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