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 Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission kicked off its December meeting with highlights from its forthcoming issue of MACStats: Medicaid and CHIP Data Book, due out December 18, 2019. MACStats brings together statistics on Medicaid and State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) enrollment and spending, federal matching rates, eligibility levels, and access to care measures, which come from multiple sources.

Later the Commission discussed a proposed rule that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued in November, which—among other changes—would increase federal oversight of Medicaid supplemental payments. The final morning session addressed payment error rates in Medicaid, with a briefing on the annual Department of Health and Human Services Agency Financial Report (AFR). Fiscal year 2019 was the first time that the AFR incorporated eligibility errors since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid eligibility and enrollment changes took effect in 2014.

After lunch, MACPAC staff summarized themes from expert roundtables convened in November, one to explore Medicaid policy on high-cost specialty drugs and another on the need for more actionable Section 1115 demonstration evaluations. Then, the Commission turned its attention to Medicaid estate recovery policies. The final session of the day looked at issues associated with reforming the current Medicaid financing structure to better respond to economic downturns.

At Friday’s opening session, the Commission considered policy options to increase participation in Medicare Savings Programs, which provide Medicare cost-sharing assistance to beneficiaries who are dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare. Afterward, the Commission continued its examination of care integration for dually eligible beneficiaries, this time focusing on policy options to reduce barriers to integrated care. The Commission then switched gears for a briefing on a new MACPAC analysis of Medicaid’s role in financing maternity care. The December meeting concluded with a review of the draft chapter for the Commission’s March report to Congress analyzing disproportionate share hospital (DSH) payments.

Supporting the discussion were the following briefing papers:

  1. MACStats: Medicaid and CHIP Data Book
  2. Review of Proposed Rule on Supplemental Payments and Financing
  3. Review of PERM Findings
  4. Themes from Expert Roundtable on Medicaid Policy on High-Cost Drugs
  5. Improving the Quality and Timeliness of Section 1115 Demonstration Evaluations: Themes from Expert Roundtable
  6. Medicaid Estate Recovery Policies
  7. Policy and Design Issues for a Countercyclical Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage
  8. Medicare Savings Programs Policy Options
  9. Barriers to Integrated Care for Dually Eligible Beneficiaries
  10. Medicaid’s Role in Financing Maternity Care
  11. Review of Draft Chapter on Statutorily Required Analyses of Disproportionate Share Hospital Payment

Because they serve so many Medicaid and CHIP patients – more than the typical hospital – MACPAC’s deliberations are especially important to private safety-net hospitals.

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 variety of issues affecting Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.  Find its web site here.

Prescription Drug Bill Would Kill Two Years of Medicaid DSH Cuts

Two years of Medicaid DSH cuts would be eliminated under a new prescription drug bill released last week by the Senate Finance Committee.

The Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act includes a provision that would eliminate two years of Affordable Care Act-mandated cuts in the allocation of federal money to the states for Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payments (Medicaid DSH).  Those cuts have been delayed several times by Congress but were scheduled to begin in October of 2019 and run through federal FY 2025, only to be delayed again twice by continuing resolutions adopted by Congress to fund the federal government in the absence of enacted appropriations bills.

Under this proposal, the first two years of Medicaid DSH cuts would be eliminated entirely and the cut then would take effect from FY 2022 through FY 2025 – only four of the six years worth of cuts anticipated by the Affordable Care Act.

The legislation also would bring other changes to the Medicaid DSH program, including new reporting requirements on the non-Medicaid DSH supplemental payments hospitals receive from their state governments; changes in Medicaid shortfall and third-party payment policies; and a GAO study and report on hospital uncompensated care costs.

All private safety-net hospitals receive Medicaid DSH payments and consider them critical to serving the many Medicaid-covered and uninsured residents of the low-income communities in which they are located.

Go here to see the proposed legislation.

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).

 

Feds Open Door for Exemptions from Medicaid IMD Exclusion

New federal guidelines will make it easier for state Medicaid programs to cover mental health services provided in institutions for mental diseases (IMD).

For years, Medicaid regulations greatly limited the ability of states to pay for care – generally, care related to substance abuse disorder treatment – provided in IMDs; this was generally known as the IMD exclusion.  The Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act, also known as the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, which was passed in 2018, opened the door for more exceptions to these limits, and last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services approved a section 1115 waiver application submitted by the Washington, D.C. Medicaid program to circumvent the IMD exclusion for specific purposes.

At the same time that CMS approved the Washington waiver application it also issued formal guidance to state Medicaid programs outlining the circumstances and conditions under which it would consider waiver applications for similar circumvention of the IMD exclusion to facilitate the provision of care in IMDs for patients with substance abuse disorders and other serious mental health problems.  The CMS guidance memo addresses the types of care for which it might approve a waiver, the types of facilities in which waiver-authorized services can be provided, and the extent to which states could receive federal Medicaid matching funds for services provided to eligible patients through approved programs.

Learn more about the Washington waiver in the Fierce Healthcare article “CMS approves D.C. Medicaid waiver, paving way for broader mental health coverage” and read the CMS guidance memo to states here.

Verma Hints at More Medicaid Changes, Deregulation

Stay tuned for more Medicaid changes, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator Seema Verma told a Las Vegas health care gathering last week.

CMS, she told her audience, will

…soon outline new opportunities for states to flip the Medicaid paradigm and free themselves from federal micromanagement.

While Verma offered few details, one idea clearly emerged:  there will be more deregulation.  She insisted, for example, that Medicaid work requirements are not dead.  While such requirements have run into trouble in the courts in recent months, she explained that CMS is developing new implementation guidelines to address some of the challenges states have faced when introducing such requirements and made it clear that CMS would continue to approve state requests to require their Medicaid population to work or engage in volunteer activities.

Because they care for more Medicaid patients than the typical hospital, private safety-net hospitals could be disproportionately affected by any changes in the Medicaid program.

Learn more about Verma’s remarks and the context in which they were offered in the Healthcare Dive article “CMS chief Verma teases more Medicaid deregulation.”

Immigrants Intimidated by New Public Charge Guidelines?

Immigrants served by community health centers appear less inclined than in the past to seek public aid to help them with their medical problems.

And community health center staff believes this is the result of confusion and fear as a result of changing federal immigration policies.

As stated in the Kaiser Family Foundation issue brief “Impact of Shifting Immigration Policy on Medicaid Enrollment and Utilization of Care among Health Center Patients,”

  • Health centers reported that, in recent months, immigrant patients have declined to enroll or reenroll themselves and/or their children in Medicaid for fear of public charge.
  • Health center respondents reported patients are confused about the new rule and are afraid to provide identifying information.
  • According to respondents, the public charge rule is creating a “chilling” effect, leading to decreased enrollment in other programs not subject to public charge.
  • About half of health centers reported a drop in utilization by immigrant patients, especially among pregnant women.
  • Health centers are training staff to answer questions on public charge and are working to ensure access to care for their patients.

This can pose a challenge for private safety-net hospitals:  low-income individuals who avoid public aid programs often end up receiving uncompensated care from those hospitals.

Learn more in the Kaiser Family Foundation issue brief “Impact of Shifting Immigration Policy on Medicaid Enrollment and Utilization of Care among Health Center Patients.”

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.

CMS Proposes Easing Medicaid Access Protections

States would have to do less to ensure access to Medicaid-covered services for their Medicaid population under a new regulation proposed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

In 2015, CMS required states to track their Medicaid fee-for-service payments and submit them to the federal government as part of a process to ensure that Medicaid payments were sufficient to ensure access to care for eligible individuals.  Now, CMS proposes rescinding this requirement, writing in a news release that

This proposed rule is designed to help streamline federal oversight of access to care requirements that protect Medicaid beneficiaries.  CMS anticipates that the proposed rule would, if finalized, result in overall cost savings for State partners that could be redirected to better serve the needs of their beneficiaries.

The proposed regulation itself explains that

While we believe the process described in the current regulatory text is a valuable tool for states to use to demonstrate the sufficiency of provider payment rates, we believe mandating states to collect the specific information as described excessively constrains state freedom to administer the program in the manner that is best for the state and Medicaid beneficiaries in the state.

CMS also notes that the current requirement applies only to Medicaid fee-for-service payments even though most Medicaid beneficiaries now receive care through managed care plans, the payments for which are not subject to the same process.

The agency adds that it intends to

…replace the ongoing access reviews required by current regulations with a more comprehensive and outcomes-driven approach to monitoring access across delivery systems, developed through workgroups and technical expert panels that include key State and federal stakeholders.

Because they care for so many Medicaid patients, the adequacy of the rates states pay for Medicaid services is especially important to private safety-net hospitals.

Learn more about CMS’s proposal in its news release on the subject or see the proposed regulation itself.  Learn about the process CMS intends to employ to replace its current approach to monitoring access to Medicaid services in this CMS informational bulletin.

 

CMS Seeks Help With Reducing Administrative and Regulatory Burdens

Reducing administrative and regulatory burdens is the subject of a new request for information issued last week by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

In the RFI, CMS explains that it is especially interested in “…innovative ideas that broaden perspectives on potential solutions to relieve burden and ways to improve”

  • reporting and documentation requirements
  • coding and documentation requirements for Medicare or Medicaid payment
  • prior authorization procedures
  • policies and requirements for rural providers, clinicians, and beneficiaries
  • policies and requirements for dually enrolled (Medicare and Medicaid) beneficiaries
  • beneficiary enrollment and eligibility determination
  • CMS processes for issuing regulations and policies

Comments are due to CMS by August 12.

For further information, see the CMS news release “CMS Seeks Public Input on Patients over Paperwork Initiative to Further Reduce Administrative, Regulatory Burden to Lower Healthcare Costs” or go here to see the RFI itself.

Administration Ramps Up Scrutiny of Immigrants’ Use of Public Benefits

Immigrants’ sponsors could be more likely to be held financially responsible for the cost of public benefits those immigrants receive under a new memorandum issued by the White House.

The requirement itself is not new; the purpose of the memorandum is to encourage federal agencies to enforce existing laws that state that, according to the memorandum,

…when an alien applies for certain means-tested public benefits, the financial resources of the alien’s sponsor must be counted as part of the alien’s financial resources in determining both eligibility for the benefits and the amount of benefits that may be awarded.  Financial sponsors who pledge to financially support the sponsored alien in the event the alien applies for or receives public benefits will be expected to fulfill their commitment under law.

Among the means-tested public benefits programs at which this new directive is aimed are Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

While the law already requires agencies to enforce immigrants sponsors’ legal financial responsibilities, the White House memorandum notes that it is not being enforced and directs the federal agencies involved to review and update their enforcement procedures.

Enforcement of this directive could result in fewer people applying for and being found eligible to receive Medicaid. If this occurs, it could be especially harmful to many private safety-net hospitals that serve large immigrant communities, potentially leaving them unpaid for care they provide to such patients.

Learn more from the administration’s “Memorandum on Enforcing the Legal Responsibilities of Sponsors of Aliens.”