Judge Orders State of Massachusetts to Update Human Service Provider Rates

A few weeks ago, the new administration of Charlie Baker was ordered by a Superior Court judge to fully implement within the next 90 days a 2008 law aimed at updating rates paid to human service providers after a coalition sued Governor Deval Patrick’s team over the summer for missing the law’s deadline. The 2008 law was an attempt by the Legislature and Patrick to implement the first statewide adjustment to human service provider rates since 1987.

The lawsuit was filed in Suffolk Superior Court in late June 2014. It seeks to compel the administration to complete its process of setting new contract rates for services as required under a law known as Chapter 257; the fiscal 2015 budget dedicated $203 million to Chapter 257. It was filed by the Massachusetts Council of Human Service Providers, the Association for Behavioral Healthcare, the Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers, Massachusetts Early Intervention Consortium, and the Children’s League of Massachusetts.

Superior Court Judge Mitchell Kaplan ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on January 13, 2015, finding that the Patrick administration, by its own admission, failed to fully implement Chapter 257 by the Jan. 1, 2014 deadline imposed by the law.

In his ruling, Kaplan rejected the previous administration’s contention that implementation of the law was implicitly subject to adequate financial resources provided by the Legislature. Kaplan said Chapter 257 does not direct payment or bind the Legislature to make an appropriation, but rather specifies how new rates shall be set.

“The decision of how much to pay for certain services is a political one,” Kaplan wrote in his eight-page ruling. “It may be that the Legislature determines that quality providers can exist only if they receive certain minimum payments for services, even if that means fewer services can be purchased.”

Kaplan ordered that Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders establish rates of payment for all social service programs covered by the law within 90 days to be in effect for services purchased by the state starting July 1, 2015.

For updates on negotiations, click here.

To learn more about the lawsuit, see http://www.masslive.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/07/human_service_providers_sue_ma.html

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