Hospital Groups Join NASH in Calling for Delay of Medicaid DSH Cuts

Seven hospital trade groups have written to congressional leaders asking them to delay Affordable Care Act-mandated cuts in Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payments (Medicaid DSH) that are scheduled to take effect in October of this year.

Their letter echoes a long-time advocacy priority of the National Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals.

In their letter the groups, led by the American Hospital Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges, write of the underlying rationale for the Affordable Care Act mandate for Medicaid DSH cuts that

…the coverage rates envisioned under the ACA have not been fully realized, and tens of millions of Americans remain uninsured. In addition, Medicaid underpayment continues to pose ongoing financial challenges for hospitals treating our nation’s most vulnerable citizens.

NASH has long advocated such delaying Medicaid DSH cuts, most recently in comments to Congress in response to the proposed State Accountability, Flexibility, and Equity for Hospitals Act.

Delaying Medicaid DSH cuts also is identified as an advocacy priority of private safety-net hospitals in NASH’s 2019 policy and advocacy agenda.

MACPAC: Slow Medicaid DSH Cuts

Slow the pace of scheduled cuts in Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payments (Medicaid DSH), the non-partisan agency that advises Congress and the administration will tell Congress in its next report of policy recommendations.

The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission voted 16-1 recently to recommend to Congress that Medicaid DSH cuts, mandated by the Affordable Care Act but delayed three times by Congress, be reduced in size and spread out over a longer period of time.

Currently, Medicaid DSH allotments to the states are scheduled to be reduced $4 billion in FY 2020 and then $8 billion a year in FY 2021 through FY 2025.  MACPAC recommends that the cuts be reduced to $2 billion in FY 2020, $4 billion in FY 2021, $6 billion in FY 2022, and $8 billion a year from FY 2023 through FY 2029.

MACPAC commissioners also voted to urge Congress to restructure the manner in which Medicaid DSH allotments to the states are calculated based on the number of low-income individuals who reside in the states.

Most private safety-net hospitals receive Medicaid DSH payments and consider them a vital resource in helping to underwrite the uncompensated care they provide to uninsured patients.  NASH supports delaying the implementation of Medicaid DSH cuts and reducing the size of the cuts once implementation begins, doing so most recently in a letter to Senator Marco Rubio in response to Mr. Rubio’s introduction of Medicaid DSH legislation.

MACPAC is a non-partisan legislative branch agency that provides policy and data analysis and makes recommendations to Congress, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the states on a wide array of issues affecting Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Learn more about MACPAC’s actions on Medicaid DSH in the Fierce Healthcare article “MACPAC calls for Congress to delay cuts to safety-net hospitals.”

NASH Comments on Proposed Medicaid DSH Revamp

In mid-December, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the State Accountability, Flexibility, and Equity (SAFE) for Hospitals Act, which seeks to restructure the federal Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payment program (Medicaid DSH).  Hospitals that care for especially large numbers of Medicaid, low-income, and uninsured patients often receive supplemental payments, called Medicaid DSH payments, from their state government to help underwrite costs associated with such patients for which they are not reimbursed.  Medicaid DSH payments are funded in part by the federal government and in part by the individual states.

As part of his introduction of his bill, Senator Rubio contacted many stakeholder groups and invited them to review and comment upon his proposal.

Among the groups contacted was the National Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals, and last week, NASH wrote to Senator Rubio to convey its views.

Instead of addressing specific aspects of the proposal, NASH offered three principles it believes should guide any effort to modify the Medicaid DSH program.  Those principles are:

  • Delay the scheduled Medicaid DSH cuts. (Significant reductions of Medicaid DSH allotments to states, mandated by the Affordable Care Act but delayed three times by Congress, are scheduled to take effect in FY 2020.)
  • Any changes in Medicaid DSH must reflect the role Medicaid DSH plays in state Medicaid programs.
  • Any changes in Medicaid DSH must preserve states’ flexibility to use Medicaid DSH resources in the manner they believe best serves their individual Medicaid programs.

Learn more about the SAFE Hospitals Act from Senator Rubio’s news release outlining the proposal and learn about NASH’s response to his request for stakeholder input from the letter NASH sent to Senator Rubio last week.

 

Bill Would Overhaul Medicaid DSH

A new Senate proposal would change how the federal government allocates Medicaid disproportionate share money (Medicaid DSH) to the states.

The State Accountability, Flexibility, and Equity (SAFE) for Hospitals Act, introduced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), seeks to

…create equity for all states by updating a metric used to determine how much each state is allotted, which has not been reformed since the early 1990s.

A news release issued by Senator Rubio explains that the bill

  • Gradually changes the DSH allocation formula so states’ allocations are based on the number of low-income earners living in the state, as a percentage, of the total U.S. population earning less than 100% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).
  • Prioritizes DSH funding to hospitals providing the most care to vulnerable patients, while providing states with the necessary flexibility to address the unique needs of hospitals in each state.
  • Expands the definition of uncompensated care to include costs incurred by hospitals to provide certain outpatient physician and clinical services, which is a change recommended by MACPAC.
  • Allows states to reserve some of their DSH funding allocations to be used in future years in order to give hospitals more certainty or consistency in the amount of DSH funding they can expect when planning for the future.

The news release also explains that one of the purposes of the bill is to benefit Florida.

NAUH will monitor the bill’s progress closely, evaluate its potential impact on private safety-net hospitals, and respond appropriately, if needed.

Learn more about the new Medicaid DSH bill by reading the news release and this one-page summary of the bill.

MACPAC Looks at Medicaid DSH

Last week the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission met in Washington, D.C. and one of the subjects on its agenda was Medicaid DSH.

The Affordable Care Act mandated major reductions of Medicaid disproportionate share (Medicaid DSH) allotments to states and those reductions have been delayed by Congress several times but are now scheduled to begin in FY 2020.

At the MACPAC meeting the commission’s staff presented three proposed recommendations that address Medicaid DSH allotments; these recommendations were based on a consensus reached by MACPAC commissioners at their October meeting.  Those recommendations are:

  1. Phase in Medicaid DSH reductions more gradually over a longer period of time.
  2. Apply reductions to unspent DSH funds first.
  3. Distribute reductions in a way that gradually improves the relationship between DSH allotments and the number of non-elderly, low-income individuals in a state.

Current regulations call for Medicaid DSH cuts to begin in FY 2020 and for DSH payments to decrease $4 billion a year in FY 2020, rising to $8 billion the following year.  It appears MACPAC may suggest slowing the pace of these cuts by starting with $2 billion in cuts in FY 2020 and then raising that amount $2 billion a year through 2023, when they would reach $8 billion a year.  MACPAC does not appear to prepared to suggest another delay in beginning the Medicaid DSH cuts.

As the third recommendation suggests, MACPAC is considering recommending a change in how DSH cuts are calculated on a state-by-state basis.  In particular, MACPAC appears to be focusing on how better to target cuts so that Medicaid DSH money continues to reach the hospitals that most need this money.  As a Medicaid expansion state, PEACH needs to pay particular attention to any such change in the methodology for determining how DSH cuts are allocated among the states.

MACPAC is expected to vote on these recommendations during its January 24-25 meetings.

All private safety-net hospitals participate in the Medicaid DSH program and rely heavily on these funds to serve the low-income communities in which they are located.  NAUH will monitor MACPAC’s upcoming deliberations, evaluate the potential impact of any MACPAC recommendations on NAUH members, and develop and implement an appropriate legislative strategy based on that analysis, if needed.

For a closer look at the draft MACPAC recommendations and the rationale underlying each, go here to see the presentations that guided last week’s MACPAC discussion about Medicaid DSH.

MACPAC Meets

The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission met for two days last week in Washington, D.C.

The following is MACPAC’s own summary of the sessions.

The October 2018 MACPAC meeting covered a range of front-line issues in Medicaid, leading off with an analysis of disproportionate share hospital (DSH) allotments on Thursday morning. Following the analysis, the Commission discussed options for March recommendations on how to structure DSH allotment reductions that are scheduled to begin in fiscal year 2020. The Commission later resumed the discussion it began in September on work and community engagement requirements, presenting new data from Arkansas on compliance and disenrollments, as well as information gathered since that meeting about Arkansas’s approach to implementation.

On Thursday afternoon, the Commission looked at the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed public charge regulations and their implications for Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). A session responding to a congressional request to look at issues facing the Medicaid program in Puerto Rico was next on the agenda. A presentation from an ongoing project on how Medicaid drug coverage compares with Medicare Part D and commercial plans closed out the day.

On Friday, the Commission heard from Tom Betlach, director of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, and Karen Kimsey, chief deputy at the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services, on their experiences integrating care for dually eligible beneficiaries.* At the final October session, the Commission reviewed the findings from a study of how six states carried out simplified Medicaid eligibility and enrollment established by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148, as amended).

Supporting the discussion were the following presentations:

Because NAUH members serve so many Medicaid patients, MACPAC’s deliberations are especially relevant to them because its recommendations often find their way into future Medicaid and CHIP policies.

MACPAC is a non-partisan legislative branch agency that provides policy and data analysis and makes recommendations to Congress, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the states on a wide array of issues affecting Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.  Find its web site here.

MACPAC Meets

The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission met recently in Washington, D.C. to review a number of Medicaid- and CHIP-related issues.

MACPAC members heard presentations on and discussed the following issues:

Find outlines of these subjects and additional materials by clicking the links above and go here for a transcript of the two days of public meetings.

MACPAC is a non-partisan legislative branch agency that provides policy and data analysis and makes recommendations to Congress, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the states on a wide array of issues affecting Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.  While its recommendations are binding on neither the administration nor Congress, MACPAC’s work is highly influential and often finds its way into future Medicaid and CHIP policy.  Because private safety-net hospitals serve so many Medicaid and CHIP patients, they have an especially major stake in MACPAC deliberations and recommendations.

 

MACPAC Meets

The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, a non-partisan legislative branch agency that advises Congress, the administration, and the states on Medicaid and CHIP issues, met publicly in Washington, D.C. last week.

The following is MACPAC’s own summary of its two days of meetings.

The April 2018 meeting began with session on social determinants of health. Panelists Jocelyn Guyer of Manatt Health Solutions, Arlene Ash of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and Kevin Moore of UnitedHealthcare Community & State discussed state approaches to financing social interventions through Medicaid. In its second morning session, the Commission reviewed a draft chapter of the June 2018 Report to Congress on Medicaid and CHIP on the adequacy of the care delivery system for substance use disorders (SUDs) with a special focus on opioid use disorders.

In the afternoon, the Commission discussed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) March 2018 proposed rule changing the process by which states verify that Medicaid fee-for-service provider payment is sufficient to ensure access to care and agreed to submit comments to the agency. The first day of the meeting concluded with a review of the draft June chapter describing the status of managed long-term services and supports programs across the country. June chapters on Medicaid drug rebate policy and federal regulations governing confidentiality of SUD patient records were approved at the previous Commission meeting in March.

On Friday, the Commission heard from panelists Susan Barnidge, of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), and Judith Cash of CMS’s Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services, who discussed GAO’s report on Section 1115 demonstration evaluations and CMS’s efforts to improve the evaluation process. In the final session of the day, the Commission examined issues related to upper payment limit (UPL) hospital payments, which included findings from MACPAC’s recent review of state UPL demonstrations.

MACPAC members addressed a number of policy issues during the sessions using the following presentations to guide their discussion:

  1. State Approaches to Financing Social Interventions through Medicaid
  2. Draft Chapter: Access to Substance Use Disorder Treatment in Medicaid
  3. Proposed Rule on Exemptions to Monitoring Access in Fee for Service
  4. Draft Chapter: Managed Long-Term Services and Supports Programs
  5. Panel Discussion on Section 1115 Waiver Evaluations
  6. Uses and Oversight of Upper Payment Limit Supplemental Payments to Hospitals

MACPAC’s deliberations are especially important to private safety-net hospitals because they care for so many Medicaid and CHIP patients.

Court Rebuffs CMS on Medicaid DSH

A federal court has rejected the manner in which the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services collects certain Medicaid data from states in a ruling that has potential implications for eligible hospitals’ Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payments (Medicaid DSH).

In a case that challenged how CMS told hospitals to report third-party payments for Medicaid patients, the court ruled against CMS in two different ways:  first, it found that CMS had not interpreted a 2003 law in a manner consistent with congressional intent; and second, it ruled that CMS could not clarify its interpretation through a published FAQ rather than through regulations.

As a result of the ruling, some hospitals may get extra room under their hospital-specific Medicaid DSH limit.  For hospitals at, near, or above those caps, this could make it possible for them to receive additional Medicaid DSH payments from their state government.

This ruling could have positive implications for private safety-net hospitals that care for especially large numbers of Medicaid patients.

Learn more about the court ruling and its Medicaid DSH implications for hospitals in this RevCycle Intelligence article.

MACPAC Issues Annual Report, Recommendations to Congress

The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission has published its annual report and recommendations to Congress.

MACPAC’s report addresses three primary areas:  Medicaid managed care, telehealth, and Medicaid disproportionate share payments (Medicaid DSH).

With 80 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries now enrolled in managed care plans, MACPAC offers three major recommendations for improving Medicaid managed care efforts:

  • permit states to require all of their Medicaid beneficiaries to enroll in a managed care plan
  • extend Medicaid managed care section 1915(b) waivers from two to five years
  • permit states to obtain waivers to waive freedom of choice and selective contracting restrictions

MACPAC notes the growing use of telehealth by state Medicaid programs and encourages states to continue this expansion while learning more from the efforts of one another to use telehealth effectively.

Finally, MACPAC notes that it

…continues to find little meaningful relationship across the country between DSH allotments and number of uninsured individuals, hospitals’ uncompensated care costs, and the number of hospitals providing essential community services that have high levels of uncompensated care. Total hospital charity care and bad debt continue to fall, especially in states that expanded Medicaid coverage, but Medicaid shortfall showed an uptick as a result of increased Medicaid enrollment. Now that Congress has delayed DSH allotment reductions for two years, the Commission will explore opportunities to improve the targeting of DSH payments in future reports.

MACPAC is a non-partisan legislative branch agency that provides policy and data analysis and makes recommendations to Congress, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the states on a wide array of issues affecting Medicaid and the CHIP program.

Medicaid DSH is very important to the nation’s private safety-net hospitals so NAUH will carefully monitor the response to MACPAC’s Medicaid DSH recommendations.

Learn more about MACPAC’s recommendations to Congress in its Report to Congress on Medicaid and CHIP, which can be found here.