Azar: Budget Proposes Reducing Medicaid Matching $

The federal government would reduce its financial commitment to state Medicaid programs under the FY 2021 budget the Trump administration proposed earlier this month.

While testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar acknowledged that the administration’s proposed FY 2021 would eliminate the enhanced rate at which the federal government matches state funds used to serve individuals who enrolled in Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion provision.  That enhanced rate calls for the federal government to pay 100 percent of the costs associated with the Medicaid population during the first year of Medicaid expansion, eventually scaling down to 90 percent after 2020.  Nationally, the federal government’s matching rate for the pre-expansion population is 57 percent; that matching rate would not be affected by this proposal.

This aspect of the administration’s proposed FY 2021 budget has mostly flown under the radar since the budget’s release and has received little public attention.

In explaining the proposal, Azar said that enhanced funding for the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion population was biased against the disabled, women, and children.

Such a policy change could be a blow to private safety-net hospitals in Medicaid expansion states.

Learn more about what Secretary Azar said about federal matching funds for state Medicaid programs in the McKnight’s Long-Term Care News article “Official confirms Trump budget proposed to eliminate enhanced Medicaid match.”

 

NASH Unveils 2020 Advocacy Agenda

The National Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals has published its 2020 advocacy agenda.

To advance the interests of private safety-net hospitals, in the coming year NASH will:

  • Continue to address the major policy challenges of 2019 that had not been resolved as that year ended:  an extended delay of Medicaid disproportionate share (Medicaid DSH) cuts, surprise medical bills, and prescription drug prices.
  • Respond to administration-driven policies such as the calculation of Medicare disproportionate share (Medicare DSH) payments, reduced payments for prescription drugs under the 340B prescription drug discount program, and efforts to reduce Medicaid eligibility and benefits and to limit the means through which states may finance their share of Medicaid payments.
  • Respond to expected judicial decisions addressing the extension of site-neutral Medicare outpatient payments to additional outpatient settings and the implementation of a new public charge regulation.

For a more detailed look at NASH’s advocacy plans for the coming year, see its complete 2020 advocacy agenda.

Interview With Seema Verma

In late December, PBS broadcast an interview with Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator Seema Verma.  Kaiser Health News has published a transcript of excerpts from that interview during which Verma discusses Medicaid – including enrollment, eligibility, services, and children – Medicare for all, administration attempts to reduce health care costs, protection for people with pre-existing conditions, and more.  Read those excerpts in the Kaiser Health News article “One-On-One With Trump’s Medicare And Medicaid Chief: Seema Verma.”

NASH Conveys End-of-Year Priorities to Congress

Preventing Medicaid DSH cuts, a fair approach to protecting patients from surprise medical bills, and reducing prescription drug costs are among the policy positions that the National Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals recently shared with Congress.

In its message to Congress, NASH also asked lawmakers to protect 340B prescription drug discounts for private safety-net hospitals and to preserve dedicated funding for community health centers, the National Health Service Corps, and the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education.

Learn more about NASH’s end-of-year policy priorities from the message “Protect Safety-Net Hospitals and the Communities They Serve in Upcoming Budget and Legislative Deliberations” that NASH delivered yesterday to all 535 members of Congress.

Administration Shares Regulatory Priorities for 2020

The Trump administration’s health care regulatory priorities for 2020 have been outlined by the Office of Management and Budget in a newly released “Statement of Regulatory Priorities for Fiscal Year 2020.”

The statement, an annual OMB document, organizes the priorities as follows:

  • Facilitating patient-centered markets
  • Fixing health care financing through protecting private insurance and Medicare
  • Fixing health care financing through reforming the individual market
  • Fixing health care financing through making the ACA and Medicaid fiscally sustainable
  • Bringing value to health care through price and quality transparency
  • Bringing value to health care through patient-centered health IT
  • Bringing value to health care through deregulation, especially for coordinated care
  • Bringing value to health care through tackling the high cost of prescription drugs
  • Bringing value to health care through accelerated drug and device approval and reimbursement
  1. Promoting health and protecting life
  • Addressing impactable health challenges: kidney health
  • Addressing impactable health challenges: combatting the opioid crisis
  • Protecting conscience and life at all stages
  • Reducing the disease and death associated with tobacco use
  1. Promoting independence
  • Returning TANF to promoting work, marriage and family
  • Supporting adoption
  • Empowering Americans to improve their nutrition
  • Promoting flexibility for states, grantees, and regulated entities

Learn more about the regulatory directions the administration intends to take for the rest of its 2020 fiscal year in the newly released “Statement of Regulatory Priorities for Fiscal Year 2020.”  Go here to see the complete list of regulations that the Department of Health and Human Services intends to pursue in FY 2020, including 55 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

 

Medicaid DSH Cut Delayed

Cuts in Medicaid DSH payments to hospitals will be delayed for another month after Congress passed, and the president signed, a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through December 20.

A cut in federal Medicaid disproportionate share (Medicaid DSH) allotments to the states is mandated by the Affordable Care Act and has been delayed several times by Congress.  If implemented, Medicaid DSH allotments to the states would be slashed $4 billion in FY 2020 and then $8 billion a year through FY 2025.

Cuts in allotments to the states would result in reductions of Medicaid DSH payments to DSH-eligible hospitals.

Medicaid DSH payments are a vital tool for helping private safety-net hospitals care for the low-income residents of their communities.  All private safety-net hospitals receive such payments.

The current cut is only temporary and expires when the continuing resolution expires after December 20.

Medicaid Expansion Brings Improvements to Expansion States

States that expanded their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act have experienced fewer hospital admissions, shorter lengths of stays in the hospital, and lower hospital costs, according to a new Health Affairs study.

Specifically, they experienced:

  • a 3.1 percent decline in inpatient days
  • a 3.5 percent decrease in discharges for conditions considered “ambulatory care-sensitive,” such as diabetes, chronic respiratory problems, and pneumonia
  • a reduction of nearly three percent in hospital costs.

NASH has long supported Medicaid expansion, which has enabled private safety-net hospitals to serve their communities more effectively.

Learn more about how Medicaid expansion has improved the health of the population in states that expanded their Medicaid programs in the Health Affairs study “Medicaid Expansion Associated With Reductions in Preventable Hospitalizations.”

CMS Adopts Methodology for Medicaid DSH Cuts

Medicaid DSH money will be allocated among states based on a new methodology under a regulation adopted this week by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

But it is not clear when that new methodology may actually be used.

Cuts in Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (Medicaid DSH) allotments to states were mandated by the Affordable Care Act based on the expectation that the law would greatly reduced the number of uninsured Americans.  While this has been the case, the decline in the number of uninsured has not been as great as expected.  For this reason, Congress has on several occasions delayed the required Medicaid DSH cut.

That cut is now scheduled to take effect next week, on October 1, but a continuing resolution to fund the federal government, passed last week by the House and now under consideration by the Senate, would delay that cut again – at least until November 22.

Private safety-net hospitals view Medicaid DSH as an essential tool in their effort to serve the uninsured and underinsured residents of the low-income communities in which they are located and strongly oppose any reductions in Medicaid DSH allocations to the states.  See a recent NASH policy statement on Medicaid DSH here.

Learn more about the new regulation governing the future allotments of Medicaid DSH money to the states and the prospects for Medicaid DSH allocation cuts being made anytime soon in the Healthcare Dive article “CMS finalizes Medicaid DSH cuts, but Congress could still delay” and see the regulation itself here.

NASH Reiterates Call for Delay of Medicaid DSH Cuts

NASH supports current, bipartisan efforts in Congress to delay Medicaid disproportionate share (Medicaid DSH) cuts required by the Affordable Care Act.

The National Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals has long called for the delay or elimination of these Medicaid DSH cuts and reiterated this view in preparation for NASH Advocacy Day, which was held last week in Washington, D.C.  In NASH’s view, Medicaid DSH is a vital tool for helping private safety-net hospitals serve residents of the low-income communities in which those hospitals are located.

NASH reinforced this position in a new position statement that notes that

While many Americans have taken advantage of the Affordable Care Act to obtain health insurance, millions remain uninsured…and the past two years have seen the number of uninsured Americans rise, not fall…Consequently, any decline now in Medicaid DSH payments could lead to an increase in the provision of charity care, possibly forcing hospitals to reduce services limit community outreach, and even reduce staff.  Such measures could jeopardize access to care, not only for hospitals’ uninsured and low-income patients but also for their privately insured, Medicare, and Medicaid patients as well.

See the complete statement on delaying Medicaid DSH cuts here, on the NASH web site.

Millions Eligible for Health Insurance Remain Uninsured

More than 15 million Americans who are currently entitled to free or subsidized health insurance are currently uninsured.

Among them are 11 million who are eligible for Medicaid but have not applied for benefits and 4.2 million who could afford insurance with the help of federal premium subsidies and either have decided not to take advantage of those subsidies or are unaware of the availability of such subsidies.

In addition, another two million people would be eligible for Medicaid if their states expanded their Medicaid program as authorized by the Affordable Care Act.

In light of such figures, it is not entirely surprising that the uninsured rate, according to the census bureau, rose last year for the first time since implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  That uninsured rate, 15 percent at the time the law was adopted in 2010, fell to 7.9 percent in 2017 but rose to 8.5 percent in 2018.  The uninsured rate has especially risen among Hispanics and the foreign born.

Another possible reason for the rise in the number of uninsured Americans:  the federal government has greatly reduced its outreach effort to inform people about the various options they have for obtaining insurance.

Learn more about who is uninsured and why the uninsured rate has risen in the Washington Post story “Millions of Americans aren’t getting health insurance, even though they’re eligible for free or affordable plans.”