Hospital Government Payment Losses Could Reach $218 Billion by 2028

A recent study concluded that hospitals can expect to lose about $218 billion in federal Medicare and Medicaid payments between 2010, when the latest round of major cuts began, and 2028.

Among those cuts cited in the study, which was commissioned by the American Hospital Association and the Federation of American Hospitals, are:

  • $79 billion for DRG documentation and coding adjustments
  • $73 billion for Medicare sequestration
  • $26 billion for Medicaid disproportionate share payments (Medicaid DSH)
  • $11 billion in cuts associated with the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012

Other cuts came, or will be coming, through regulatory changes, the introduction of value-based payment programs, and other means.

Learn more about these cuts and their potential implications in this Healthcare Dive story.

 

Verdict: Medicaid Expansion Improved Care and Access

A new review of studies published since the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion has concluded that expansion improved care, access to care, and coverage in states that expanded their Medicaid programs.

Among the improvements cited by studies are:

  • greater use of primary care
  • more preventive health visits
  • more behavioral health care
  • shorter hospital stays
  • fewer avoidable hospital admissions
  • reduced access problems
  • reduced reliance on hospital ERs as a primary source of care
  • improved monitoring and compliance rates for patients with diabetes and hypertension
  • higher rates of screening for prostate cancer and Pap smears

In addition, hospitals provided less uncompensated care and had better margins.

Learn more in the Health Affairs study “The Effects Of Medicaid Expansion Under The ACA:  A Systematic Review,” which can be found here, or go here for a Healthcare Dive summary of the study.

HHS Unveils Spring Regulatory Agenda

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has published a comprehensive list of the regulatory actions it plans to take in the coming months.

Included on the list are regulations that have been proposed, that are being finalized, and that are currently under development.  They address Medicare, Medicaid, Food and Drug Administration endeavors, medical devices, the 340B prescription drug discount program, and more.

Among the policy changes contemplated through future regulations are measures to reduce regulatory burdens for hospitals, address the opioid problem, facilitate the use of non-Affordable Care Act-compliant health insurance plans, and more.

Go here to see a complete list of the areas for proposed regulatory action by HHS and for links to brief statements about the contemplated actions.

Helping Safety-Net Hospitals Help Their Patients

A new report published on the Health Affairs Blog describes the continuing challenges safety-net hospitals face and offers suggestions for helping them meet those challenges.

The challenges, according to the report, are the virtual elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s individual health insurance mandate; the continued decline in the amount of Medicare disproportionate share hospital money (Medicare DSH) provided to safety-net hospitals; and hospital closures that shift more of the burden for caring for uninsured patients onto a smaller pool of safety-net hospitals.  The result is under-served patients and new financial risks for the hospitals that remain after some safety-net hospitals close because of the large amounts of uncompensated care those hospitals continue to provide.

To address these challenges, the report offers three potential solutions:

  • Congress should revisit the Medicare DSH cuts.
  • States should target their DSH money to the hospitals providing the most uncompensated care.
  • Non-profit non-safety-net hospitals that stabilize uninsured emergency patients and then direct them to safety-net hospitals should be required to play a longer-term role in the care of such patients as part of their required community benefit or risk losing their tax-exempt status.

Learn more about the challenges safety-net hospitals continue to face and some of the possible solutions to those problems by going here, to the Health Affairs Blog, to see the report “Safety-Net Health Systems at Risk:  Who Bears The Burden Of Uncompensated Care?”

ACA Has Increased Primary Care Utilization

A new study found that the increase in the number of insured Americans as a result of the Affordable Care Act has resulted in increased utilization of primary health care services.

According to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, primary care utilization rose 3.8 percent, mammograms 1.5 percent, HIV tests 2.1 percent, and flu shots 1.9 percent over a three-year period.  The study suggests that preventive care increased between 17 and 50 percent.

The study attributes all of the gains to improved access to private insurance and none to Medicaid expansion.

These results are based on self-reported information gathered from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

Learn more about these and other study findings in the National Bureau of Economic Resarch report  “Effects of the Affordable Care Act on Health Behaviors after Three Years” or see this summary on the Healthcare Dive web site.

Study Looks at Medicaid and Managed Care

A new Commonwealth Fund study examines how managed care plans have tackled serving new members in Affordable Care Act-authorized Medicaid expansion states.

According to the report, these managed care organizations have

…focused on identifying and helping high-risk populations and addressing the social determinants of health. MCOs are testing value-based payment strategies that link payment with performance and are increasingly focused on engaging patients in their care. Leaders report common challenges: setting appropriate payment rates; managing members whose needs differ from traditional Medicaid beneficiaries; ensuring access to specialty care; and effectively implementing payment reform and practice transformation.

Learn more about how managed care plans have served the Medicaid expansion population in the Commonwealth Fund report “Medicaid Payment and Delivery Reform:  Insights From Managed Care Plan Leaders in Medicaid Expansion States,” which can be found here.

A New Wave of Medicaid Expansion?

Spurred by the Trump administration’s invitation to states to apply for approval to make work requirements a part of their Medicaid program, a number of states that spurned the opportunity created for expansion under the Affordable Care Act may consider pursuing Medicaid expansion in the near future.

Currently, some elected officials in Idaho, Kansas, North Carolina, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming appear to be considering what they once considered unthinkable:  making more of their residents eligible for Medicaid.

For the most part, expansion talk is coming from moderate Republican legislators who believe a work requirement may help soften the staunch opposition to Medicaid expansion among their more conservative Republican colleagues – and at this point it is all still just talk.

Ten states have already sought federal approval to establish a work requirement as part of their Medicaid programs and one state, Kentucky, has already had such a request approved.

Learn more about how a federal move to reduce the number of people on the nation’s Medicaid rolls may actually result in an increase in nation-wide Medicaid enrollment in this Washington Post story.

NAUH Asks Congressional Leaders to Delay Medicaid DSH Cut

Delay cuts in Medicaid disproportionate share (Medicaid DSH) allotments to states, NAUH has asked congressional leaders.

Medicaid DSH payments, which help private safety-net hospitals with the cost of caring for their low-income and uninsured patients, were slated for cuts under the Affordable Care Act in anticipation of a steep decline in the number of uninsured Americans.  While the reform law has helped millions obtain insurance, safety-net hospitals continue to serve large numbers of low-income and uninsured patients.  Recognizing this, Congress has twice delayed this Medicaid DSH cut but its moratorium on the cut ended on December 31.

Now, NAUH has asked the leaders of Congress to restore the Medicaid DSH cut delay as part of their current budget deliberations.

See NAUH’s letter to congressional leaders here.

ACA Improves Access to Surgical Services

The Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion has improved access to surgical services for Medicaid patients.

Or so says a new study published in JAMA Surgery, which reports that

In this study of patients with 1 of 5 common surgical conditions, Medicaid expansion was associated with a 7.5–percentage point increase in insurance coverage at the time of hospital admission. The policy was also associated with patients obtaining care earlier in their disease course and with an increased probability of receiving optimal care for those conditions.

As a result, the study found,

The ACA’s Medicaid expansion was associated with increased insurance coverage and improved receipt of timely care for 5 common surgical conditions.

This development is especially relevant to private safety-net hospitals because they serve so many more Medicaid patients in the predominantly low-income communities in which they are located.

Learn more about the study, its findings, and the implications in the JAMA Surgery report “Association of the Affordable Care Act Medicaid Expansion With Access to and Quality of Care for Surgical Conditions,” which can be found here.

Safety-Net Hospitals Under the Gun

Safety-net hospitals across the country – including private safety-net hospitals – face a new challenge:  adjusting to several cuts in the supplemental payments they receive from the federal government to help them serve the low-income residents of the communities in which they are located.

First there is a $2 billion cut in Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payments (Medicaid DSH).  These are payments made to hospitals that serve especially large numbers of low-income patients.  These payments help safety-net hospitals with the unreimbursed expenses they incur caring for such patients.  This cut, mandated by the Affordable Care Act but twice delayed by Congress, took effect on January 1.  In many states the value of Medicaid DSH cuts will exceed the reductions in uninsured care that hospitals have experienced since the Affordable Care Act made health insurance more widely available.

Second there is a 28 percent cut in Medicare payments for prescription drugs dispensed through the section 340B prescription drug discount program.  This cut, too, took effect on January 1.

Finally, federal funding has lapsed for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and for community health centers.

Safety-net hospitals are considering a number of moves to offset these losses.  Among them:  reducing or eliminating services, laying off staff, discontinuing the provision of transportation assistance, and eliminating post-discharge assistance to patients.  One safety-net hospital is even considering discontinuing providing chemotherapy to cancer patients because such drugs are especially expensive and often reimbursed through the 340B program.

These cuts have serious implications both for private safety-net hospitals and for the communities they serve.

Learn more about the cuts private safety-net hospitals face, their implications, and how they might respond to them in this Stateline article.