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.

Senate Finance Committee Reports on Supplemental Medicaid Payments

The majority members of the Senate Finance Committee have published a report on supplemental Medicaid payments.

According to the new document,

This report seeks to increase educational understanding of Medicaid supplemental payments, as well as outline the reporting mechanisms for these payments to ensure adequate stewardship of taxpayer dollars. 

The report consists of descriptions of the different types of supplemental Medicaid payments that states make to some providers, including:

  • Medicaid disproportionate share payments (Medicaid DSH)
  • non-DSH payments
  • upper-payment limit payments (UPL payments)
  • demonstration supplemental payments
  • medical education payments

It also describes the magnitude of these payments, noting that supplemental Medicaid payments accounted for $50 billion of the $600 billion spent on Medicaid by the federal and state governments in 2016, the most recent year for which comprehensive data is available.  In addition, it outlines how those payments are distributed while also considering how these payments affect the overall adequacy of Medicaid payments to providers; this varies from state to state.

Finally, the report reviews how the states finance their Medicaid programs, including through provider taxes, intergovernmental transfers, and certified public expenditures, and how states report their supplemental Medicaid payments to the federal government.

All private safety-net hospitals receive supplemental payments from their state Medicaid programs and consider those payments essential resources supporting their ability to serve the residents of the low-income communities in which they are generally located.

To learn more, see the report “Greater Transparency of Supplemental Payments Needed,” which was prepared by the majority staff of the Senate Finance Committee.

Uninsured ED and Inpatient Visits Down Since ACA

Uninsured hospital admissions and emergency department visits are down since passage of the Affordable Care Act.

And Medicaid-covered admissions and ER visits are up, according to a new analysis.

The report, published on the JAMA Network Open, found that ER visits by uninsured patients fell from 16 percent to eight percent between 2006 and 2016, with most of this decline after 2014, while uninsured discharges fell from six percent to four percent.

The rate of uninsured ER visits declined, moreover, at a time when overall ER visits continued to rise.

While the Affordable Care Act is likely the cause of most of these changes, other contributing factors include the emergence of urgent care facilities, telemedicine, and free-standing ERs as well as new payment models and rules.

The study’s findings are especially good news for private safety-net hospitals because they care for so many more low-income patients than other hospitals and have benefited from the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of access to insurance, whether through Medicaid expansion or the private health insurance market.

Learn more in the JAMA Network Open article “US Emergency Department Visits and Hospital Discharges Among Uninsured Patients Before and After Implementation of the Affordable Care Act.”

Bureaucratic Requirements May Be Driving Medicaid Enrollment Decline

State eligibility redetermination processes may be pushing down Medicaid enrollment nation-wide.

Last year, national Medicaid enrollment fell 1.5 million, more than half of them children, and according to a new report from Families USA, much of that decline may be attributable to the challenging eligibility redetermination requirements imposed on Medicaid-eligible individuals by some states.

Those requirements include a 98-page packet that Tennessee sends to individuals seeking to retain their Medicaid eligibility; Arkansas’ limit of 10 days to respond to requests for information to redetermine eligibility; and Missouri’s decision to discontinue using data from other public safety-net programs to redetermine eligibility.

Others point to an improving national economy and new Medicaid work requirements as the primary causes of declining Medicaid enrollment.

Declining Medicaid enrollment can be especially challenging for private safety-net hospitals because they are located in lower-income communities than the typical hospital.  When Medicaid enrollment falls, these hospitals often find themselves serving more patients without health insurance and providing more uncompensated care.

Learn more in the Families USA report “The Return of Churn: State Paperwork Barriers Caused More Than 1.5 Million Low-Income People to Lose Their Medicaid Coverage in 2018.”

MACPAC Recommends Changes in Medicaid Shortfall Definition

Hospitals’ calculation of their Medicaid shortfall would change under a recommendation that MACPAC voted to make to Congress.  That change, in turn, could affect hospitals’ future Medicaid disproportionate share payments.

Last week the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission voted overwhelmingly to change how hospitals calculate their Medicaid shortfall:  the difference between what they spend caring for their Medicaid patients and what Medicaid pays them for that care.  Under MACPAC’s proposal, hospitals would need to deduct from their shortfall total all third-party payments they receive for the care they provide to their Medicaid patients.

If this proposal were to be adopted, it has the potential of changing Medicaid DSH allocations among the states and change the distribution of Medicaid DSH funds within individual states, although the Congressional Budget Office estimates that it would have little impact on either measure.

Complicating the MACPAC recommendation is last year’s federal court ruling that third-party payments could not be deducted from hospitals’ Medicaid shortfall totals because the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services lacks the authority to implement such a policy.  Making such a change therefore would require action by Congress.

Learn more about the MACPAC recommendation and its potential implications for hospitals and their Medicaid DSH payments in the Fierce Healthcare article “’Medicaid shortfall’ definition should change when tallying DSH payments, MACPAC says.”

 

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.

 

NASH Asks Grassley, Senate Finance Committee to Delay Medicaid DSH Cut

Delay or eliminate the FY 2020 Medicaid disproportionate share payment cut, NASH has asked Senator Charles Grassley in a recent letter.

The cut, mandated by the Affordable Care Act but delayed three times by Congress, was envisioned as an appropriate response to what was expected to be a significant decrease in the number of uninsured Americans as a result of the 2010 health reform law.  In his news release, Senator Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, notes that Congress has delayed implementing this Medicaid DSH cut three times and needs to address the issue definitively.

In its letter, NASH maintains that the Affordable Care Act has not reduced the number of uninsured Americans as much as anticipated, leaving private safety-net hospitals and others still to provide significant amounts of uncompensated care to their low-income and uninsured patients and therefore still in need of their full Medicaid DSH payments.

NASH also argues that uncertainty in the health care arena today – legislative and judicial challenges to the Affordable Care Act, states changing the eligibility criteria and benefits of their Medicaid programs, the instability of health insurance marketplaces, and more – makes this an inappropriate time to reduce payments to safety-net hospitals, possibly jeopardizing access to care in low-income areas as a result.

Learn more by reading Senator Grassley’s news release and NASH’s letter to him.

ACA Repeal Would Drive Up Uninsured, Uncompensated Care

At the same time that the Trump administration announced that it has asked a federal court to repeal the entire Affordable Care Act, the Urban Institute has published a report detailing the potential impact of the health care reform law’s repeal.

According to the Urban Institute report, repealing the entire Affordable Care Act would add almost 20 million Americans to the ranks of the uninsured.  Medicaid and CHIP enrollment would fall by 15.4 million people and millions of others would lose the tax credits they used to purchase insurance.  Some would purchase insurance with limited benefits and individual plan premiums would rise while others would go uninsured.

In addition, repeal of the Affordable Care Act would lead to an 82 percent increase in hospital uncompensated care, to more than $50 billion.  About half of the states would see the amount of uncompensated care provided by their hospitals double, the Urban Institute estimates.

Repeal of the Affordable Care Act would pose an especially great financial challenge for private safety-net hospitals because they care for so many Medicaid- and CHIP-covered and low-income patients who might lose their coverage if the reform law is repealed.

Learn more from the Healthcare Dive article “Killing ACA would lead to huge spikes in uncompensated care” and from the Urban Institute report State-by-State Estimates of the Coverage and Funding Consequences of Full Repeal of the ACA.

 

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.

MACPAC Makes DSH, UPL Recommendations

Changes could come in Medicaid DSH and UPL payments if new MACPAC recommendations are adopted.

Last week the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission released its annual report to Congress, with most of the report focusing on its analysis and recommendations for policy updates involving Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payments (Medicaid DSH) and Medicaid upper payment limit payments (UPL payments).

With Affordable Care Act-mandated cuts in Medicaid DSH payments scheduled to start in FY 2020 – this coming October – MACPAC recommended that these cuts be reduced and phased in over a longer period of time “…to give states and hospitals more time to respond to the cuts…”

MACPAC also recommended that Congress and the administration revise the current methodology for distributing Medicaid DSH money to the states to “…provide a stronger link between the distribution of those allotments and measures of hospital uncompensated care…”

The commission also addressed UPL payments, expressing concern about “…the discrepancy between reporting by states to show that they are complying with the UPL and the spending data they report to claim federal matching funds” and recommending “…instituting better data and process controls to ensure that state reporting on compliance with UPL lines up with those amounts they are claiming, and existing limits are enforced.

Medicaid DSH and UPL payments are especially important to NASH and private safety-net hospitals because of the significant number of low-income, Medicaid-covered, and uninsured patients they serve.

Learn more from MACPAC’s news release summarizing its recommendations and the entire MACPAC annual report.