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.”

CMS Adopts Rule to Protect Medicaid Payments

A new Medicaid provider reassignment regulation eliminates the ability of states to divert any portion of Medicaid payments to third parties.

Such diversion was authorized, in a limited manner, in 2014, when CMS created an exception to the existing prohibition on the diversion of provider payments to third parties.  That exception involved diversion of payments to selected third parties, mostly in-home personal care workers, but in this new, final regulation, the agency eliminates this exception, maintaining that it is inconsistent with the Social Security Act.

Learn more about the new regulation in a CMS news release or see the new regulation itself.

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 Commission wrapped up its work on the June 2019 Report to Congress on Medicaid and CHIP at the April meeting, with sessions reviewing four of the report’s five draft chapters on Thursday morning, and votes on potential recommendations later in the afternoon.

First on Thursday’s agenda was a draft June chapter on Medicaid prescription drug policy, which contained draft recommendations to provide states with a grace period to determine Medicaid drug coverage and raise the cap on rebates. The Commission then revisited hospital payment policy, with a draft chapter and recommendation on how to treat third-party payment in the definition of Medicaid shortfall when determining disproportionate share hospital payments. Next, commissioners considered two recommendations proposed as part of a June chapter on improving the effectiveness of Medicaid program integrity. The final morning session addressed the Commission’s proposed recommendation on therapeutic foster care.

The Commission returned from lunch for two presentations discussing preliminary findings of forthcoming congressionally mandated reports. The first afternoon session presented initial findings from a MACPAC review of state Medicaid utilization management policies related to medication-assisted treatment, to be issued in October. The session immediately following presented preliminary findings for a January 2020 study on Medicaid standards for institutions for mental diseases. Both reports are required as part of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (P.L. 115-271). Votes on June 2019 recommendations closed out the day.

Friday’s sessions opened with a review of the fifth draft chapter slated for June, on Medicaid in Puerto Rico. The second session of the morning reviewed a proposed rule issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in March to promote interoperability in federal health care programs. The April meeting closed with a review of evaluations of integrated care for dually eligible beneficiaries.

Supporting the discussion were the following presentations:

  1. Review of Draft Chapter for June Report and Recommendations on Prescription Drug Policy: Grace Period and Cap on Rebates
  2. Review of Draft Chapter for June Report and Proposed Medicaid Shortfall Recommendation
  3. Review of Draft Chapter on Improving the Effectiveness of Medicaid Program Integrity and Recommendations
  4. Review of Recommendation for June Report Chapter on Therapeutic Foster Care
  5. Preliminary Findings from Congressionally Mandated Study on Medication-Assisted Treatment Utilization Management Policies
  6. Preliminary Findings on Congressionally Mandated Study on Institutions for Mental Diseases
  7. Review of Draft June Report Chapter on Medicaid in Puerto Rico
  8. Review of Proposed Rule to Promote Interoperability in Federal Health Care Programs
  9. Evaluating Integrated Care: Review of Results from Literature

Because NASH members and private safety-net hospitals 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 variety of issues affecting Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.  Find its web site here.

 

Medicaid Transportation Services in Jeopardy?

The White House has proposed removing non-emergency transportation from the list of mandatory Medicaid benefits.

The proposed FY 2020 budget released last week explained that

Statute allows, but does not require, States to provide non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT).  Instead, these services were made mandatory Medicaid benefits by regulation.  Further, a Government Accountability Office study found Medicaid NEMT spending totaled $1.5 billion in 2013, and NEMT programs face multiple challenges, including difficulties in obtaining costs and maintaining program integrity.  To address these issues, this proposal would update regulations to clarify the NEMT benefit is strictly optional.

Medical transportation has long been viewed as vital means for helping Medicaid patients keep doctors’ appointments and recover from their illnesses and injuries and for overcoming some social determinants of health.  Loss of this tool would be harmful for private safety-net hospitals and the patients and communities they serve.  NASH will closely monitor the progress of this proposal.