MFAR Backlash Continues

Diverse health care and government interests are rallying around their opposition to the proposed Medicaid fiscal accountability rule.

The regulation, proposed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in November would impose new limits on the ability of states to finance their share of their Medicaid spending, potentially jeopardizing provider payments and the ability of high-volume Medicaid providers to operate without suffering great losses.

In all, CMS received more than 4200 written comments in response to the proposed regulation, most of them expressing opposition.  Among those doing so were state governments, the National Governors Association, hospitals and hospital associations, nursing home operators, and health advocacy organizations.  Also among them was the National Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals.  In summarizing its opposition, NASH wrote in a formal comment letter to CMS on behalf of private safety-net hospitals that

While NASH supports greater transparency in Medicaid, that support is outweighed by too many troubling aspects of the proposed regulation. In this letter, NASH is especially interested in commenting on five aspects of the proposed regulation: how it would deprive states of important, established policy-making prerogatives; its creation of major new administrative burdens for state governments and for hospitals; its inappropriate regulation of financing of the state share of Medicaid spending; its proposed introduction of new, unspecified standards that state Medicaid programs would be held accountable for meeting; and its violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.

See NASH’s entire letter here.

Learn more about the Medicaid fiscal accountability rule, what it seeks to do, and why so many oppose in the Stateline article “Medical Groups Slam Trump Medicaid Rule.”

Supreme Court Paves Way for Public Charge Regulation

The revised public charge regulation that will make it more difficult for some immigrants to come to the U.S. will be implemented after the Supreme Court lifted preliminary injunctions issued by lower courts that delayed the regulation’s implementation.

Under revisions of the public charge regulation introduced last year, individuals seeking entry into the U.S. and green cards who do not appear to be financially independent or have employment commitments can be denied entry if they will be dependent on means-tested public aid programs such as Medicaid or food stamps or even if they, or members of their family, appear likely to become dependent on such aid in the near future.

A number of judges throughout the country blocked the administration’s implementation of revisions of the public charge rule.  The Supreme Court’s action only lifts those injunction; it does not address the constitutionality of the regulation, leaving that matter to continue to be addressed by lower courts for now.

The challenge posed to health care providers by the updated public charge regulation is as much a matter of perception as reality:  individuals already legally in the U.S. who are not subject to the regulation have withdrawn from Medicaid out of fear of deportation while others who also are in the country legally and qualify for Medicaid are choosing not to apply for benefits for the same reason.  This, in turn, may leave some providers with more uncompensated care instead of Medicaid reimbursement for the care they provide to some of their patients.

The National Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals has conveyed its opposition to the public charge regulation to both Congress and the administration.  In a message to Congress, NASH wrote that “The new public charge regulation threatens the health of families and communities and threatens the ability of private safety-net hospitals to serve those families and those communities.”  In response to the proposed changes in the regulation, NASH wrote in a formal comment letter on behalf of private safety-net hospitals that it

…believes the proposed regulation could have a chilling effect on the willingness of many legal citizens and legal non-citizens to seek out government health care programs for which they legally qualify. This could lead to millions of low-income legal citizens and legal non-citizens choosing not to seek the care to which they are entitled by law and ignoring serious illnesses and injuries until they become a crisis. When such individuals have no choice but to turn to hospital emergency departments in search of care – something hospital emergency departments are required by law to provide regardless of a patient’s ability to pay – this could overwhelm those facilities and would do so to the detriment of other patients while also producing a surge of uncompensated care, especially for private safety-net hospitals. That, in turn, could jeopardize the jobs of thousands who work in those hospitals and the economies of the communities in which those hospitals are located. It could also jeopardize access to care for residents of these same communities – including ordinary people who receive their health care coverage from private insurers and Medicare.

See NASH’s entire comment letter here.

Learn more about the Supreme Court’s decision and how it affects implementation of the public charge regulation in the New York Times article “Supreme Court Allows Trump’s Wealth Test for Green Cards.”

 

Fitch: Medicaid Block Grants, MFAR Threaten States, Providers

Medicaid block grants and the proposed Medicaid fiscal accountability regulation (MFAR) pose new financial threats to providers and states, according to Fitch Ratings, the financial rating company.

MFAR poses the greater threat, Fitch believes, noting in a new analysis that it could

…reduce total Medicaid spending nationally by $37 billion and $44 billion annually…and by $23 billion to $30 billion for hospitals alone.  States, and to some extent providers, would respond to MFAR’s implementation with measures to mitigate the negative fiscal implications.

Block grants, through what has been named the Healthy Adult Opportunity program, also pose a threat, with Fitch explaining that

Capping federal Medicaid contributions, even for a subset of beneficiaries, poses risks to state budgets and those entities reliant on state funding, including local governments and providers.  States would need to find revenue or cost savings, either in Medicaid or elsewhere, to offset reduced federal contributions.

Because private safety-net hospitals care for more Medicaid patients than the typical hospital, both proposed policy changes have a potentially greater impact on them.

Last month NASH conveyed its opposition to the proposed MFAR regulation in a formal comment letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in response to the regulation’s publication late last year.  While NASH has not commented publicly about the Healthy Adult Opportunity program, it has long been concerned about a block grant approach to Medicaid funding, writing in its 2019 advocacy agenda that

Block grants, whether based on individual states’ Medicaid enrollment or on their past Medicaid spending, could impose unreasonable limits on Medicaid spending that could potentially leave private safety-net hospitals unreimbursed for care they provide to legitimately eligible individuals. NASH will work to ensure that any new approach that involves Medicaid block grant continues to give states the ability to pay safety-net hospitals adequately for the essential services they provide to the low-income residents of the communities in which those hospitals are located.

Learn more about the potential impact of the proposed Medicaid fiscal accountability regulation and Medicaid block grants in the Fitch Ratings analysis “Fitch Rtgs: Medicaid Changes Will Affect States, NFP Healthcare Providers.”

Verma Responds to MFAR Critics

CMS administrator Seema Verma addresses criticism of her agency’s proposed Medicaid fiscal accountability regulation in a new commentary on the CMS blog.

Critics of the so-called MFAR regulation have argued that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ proposed regulation, if adopted, will lead to a reduction of federal funding for state Medicaid programs, jeopardize access to care and the financial health of providers by leading to a reduction of supplemental payments to high-volume Medicaid providers, and possibly even force some states to raise taxes to compensate for the loss of federal funding.

In her commentary Verma rebuts these criticisms, maintaining that the proposed regulation seeks to ensure that states pay their fair share of their Medicaid partnership with the federal government, raise that share in a manner consistent with federal guidelines, and spend it in ways that fall within regulatory standards.  She also maintains that the regulation will foster greater transparency and accountability for the Medicaid program.

Verma notes that more than 4000 stakeholders submitted written comments in response to the proposed regulation.  NASH was among those commenters, writing that MFAR would give too much authority to federal regulators; create new administrative burdens for hospitals and state governments; and inappropriately limit state financing of their share of Medicaid spending.

Learn more from the Verma CMS blog commentary “Medicaid Fiscal Integrity: Protecting Taxpayers and Patients” and from NASH’s letter in response to the proposed regulation.

 

340B Déjà Vu: CMS Seeks to Collect Data From Hospitals

For the second time in four months, the federal government has announced its intention to collect data from hospitals and other providers on what they pay for the prescription drugs they purchase through the section 340B prescription drug discount program.

Last week the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services published a notice announcing its intention to collect this data.  Previously, health care interests sued CMS when it attempted in 2018 to reduce payments to providers for drugs purchased through the 340B program and the court ruled against CMS, maintaining that the agency did not have enough data on hospitals’ acquisition costs for the drugs to justify the proposed payment reduction.  The newly announced data collection effort seeks to rectify that shortcoming as the court considers CMS’s appeal of a similar decision in a lawsuit filed after CMS again proposed reducing 340B payments and was again rebuffed by the courts in 2019.

Under federal law, CMS must publish a notice declaring its intention to collect such data and seek input from stakeholders.  For this particular notice, stakeholders have until March 9 to respond.

CMS published a similar notice in September of 2019 announcing its intention to collect similar data.  That data collection never took place.  NASH opposed that data collection proposal in a formal comment letter to CMS, writing on behalf of private safety-net hospitals that

NASH and the nation’s private safety-net hospitals oppose the proposed collection of data involving the section 340B prescription drug discount program for three reasons:

  • we oppose CMS’s continued efforts to reduce 340B reimbursement to eligible hospitals;
  • the proposed data collection would be exceptionally burdensome; and
  • we disagree with attempting to address a matter still being litigated.

Most private safety-net hospitals participate in the 340B program and consider it a vital tool in serving the many low-income residents of the communities in which they are located.

See NASH’s complete comment letter here.

To learn more about CMS’s 340B data collection effort, see the notice it published in the Federal Register and read the Becker’s Hospital Review article “CMS ready to survey 340B hospitals about drug acquisition costs.”

NASH Raises Concerns About Proposed Budget in News Release

Medicare and Medicaid cuts detailed in the administration’s proposed FY 2021 budget could be harmful to private safety-net hospitals, the National Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals declared in a news release issued in response to that proposed budget.

Among those cuts:  $465 billion in Medicare payments and $920 billion in Medicaid reductions over the next ten years.

“The extent of the proposed spending cuts is daunting,” said Ellen Kugler, NASH’s executive director.  “The payments that have been targeted for the biggest cuts are the very payments that enable safety-net hospitals to provide vital services to their communities.  Without them, the capacity of private safety-net hospitals across the country to continue serving the low-income, low-income elderly, uninsured, and medically vulnerable residents of their communities could be in serious jeopardy.”

Among the payments targeted for major cuts are Medicare disproportionate share (Medicare DSH), Medicaid disproportionate share (Medicaid DSH), Medicare graduate medical education payments, Medicare bad debt reimbursement, and payments for some Medicare-covered outpatient services.

Learn more about NASH’s objections to the proposed cuts in this NASH news release.

Health Care Groups Rebel Against Proposed Federal Regulation, Program

The administration’s proposed Medicaid fiscal accountability regulation and its guidance encouraging states to implement Medicaid block grants have incurred widespread opposition among a variety of health care groups.

The Medicaid fiscal accountability regulation would, if adopted, impose new restrictions on how states raise their share of their Medicaid spending, potentially limiting state participation in Medicaid or necessitating tax increases to fill the funding gap if long-accepted financing tools are no longer available to them.

The Medicaid block grant guidance offers states a blueprint for curtailing their Medicaid costs by imposing limits on that spending that they negotiate with the federal government.

Numerous health care groups have expressed reservations or direct opposition to one or both of the proposals.  Among them:

  • AARP
  • America’s Essential Hospitals
  • America’s Health Insurance Plans
  • American College of Emergency Physicians
  • American Health Care Association
  • American Hospital Association
  • American Medical Association
  • Association for Community Affiliated Plans
  • Association of American Medical Colleges
  • Coalition of Long-Term Acute-Care Hospitals
  • LeadingAge
  • National Association of State Budget Officers
  • National Association of Medicaid Directors
  • National Continuing Care Residents Association
  • National Governors Association
  • Private Essential Access Community Hospitals
  • Safety-Net Association of Pennsylvania

NASH is among the many that submitted formal comment letters in response to the proposed Medicaid fiscal accountability regulation; see NASH’s letter here.

Learn more about why these groups object to these two new policy developments in articles in Axios (“A little-noticed Medicaid proposal could have huge consequences”), Bloomberg Law (“Trump Plan to Tame State Medicaid Finance Schemes Sees Pushback”), Health Affairs (“Proposed Rules On Medicaid Financing Miss Mark And Threaten Access”), Healthcare Dive (“Payers, providers urge CMS to scrap rule targeting supplemental Medicaid payments”), Healthcare Finance News (“Providers, payers, others speak out against federal proposals for Medicaid funding”), McKnight’s Long-Term Care News (“Providers rally against proposed Medicaid supplemental payment rules that threaten ‘major financial burdens’”), McKnight’s Senior Living (“CMS proposal would be ‘major financial burden’ for CCRCs, residents, organizations say”),  and U.S. News & World Report (“Governors Warn Trump Rule Could Lead to Big Medicaid Cuts”)

Health Care Groups Rebel Against Proposed Federal Regulation, Program

The administration’s proposed Medicaid fiscal accountability regulation and its guidance encouraging states to implement Medicaid block grants has incurred widespread opposition among a variety of health care groups.

The Medicaid fiscal accountability regulation would, if adopted, impose new restrictions on how states raise their share of their Medicaid spending, potentially limiting state participation in Medicaid or necessitating tax increases to fill the funding gap if long-accepted financing tools are no longer available to them.

The Medicaid block grant guidance offers states a blueprint for curtailing their Medicaid costs by imposing limits on that spending that they negotiate with the federal government.

Numerous health care groups have expressed reservations or direct opposition to one or both of the proposals.  Among them:

  • AARP
  • America’s Essential Hospitals
  • America’s Health Insurance Plans
  • American College of Emergency Physicians
  • American Health Care Association
  • American Hospital Association
  • American Medical Association
  • Association for Community Affiliated Plans
  • Association of American Medical Colleges
  • Coalition of Long-Term Acute-Care Hospitals
  • LeadingAge
  • National Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals
  • National Association of State Budget Officers
  • National Association of Medicaid Directors
  • National Continuing Care Residents Association
  • National Governors Association
  • Private Essential Access Community Hospitals

Among the groups submitting formal comment letters to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in response to the proposed Medicaid fiscal accountability regulation was the National Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals.  See NASH’s letter here.

Learn more about why these groups object to these two new policy developments in articles in Axios (“A little-noticed Medicaid proposal could have huge consequences”), Bloomberg Law (“Trump Plan to Tame State Medicaid Finance Schemes Sees Pushback”), Health Affairs (“Proposed Rules On Medicaid Financing Miss Mark And Threaten Access”), Healthcare Dive (“Payers, providers urge CMS to scrap rule targeting supplemental Medicaid payments”), Healthcare Finance News (“Providers, payers, others speak out against federal proposals for Medicaid funding”), McKnight’s Long-Term Care News (“Providers rally against proposed Medicaid supplemental payment rules that threaten ‘major financial burdens’”), McKnight’s Senior Living (“CMS proposal would be ‘major financial burden’ for CCRCs, residents, organizations say”),  and U.S. News & World Report (“Governors Warn Trump Rule Could Lead to Big Medicaid Cuts

Hundreds of Hospitals Penalized for Medical Mistakes

786 hospitals will see their Medicare payments slashed one percent for a year because of their performance under Medicare’s hospital-acquired conditions reduction program.

That program penalizes the 25 percent of hospitals with the highest rate of patient safety problems, such as infections and injuries.

Among the more interesting aspects of this year’s program results:

  • Among those being penalized are seven of the 21 hospitals on the S. News “best hospitals” list.
  • Three hospitals also on that list have never been penalized.
  • 145 hospitals will be penalized for the first time.
  • 16 hospitals that have been penalized every year since the program’s launch six years ago will not be penalized for the first time.

Since the program’s launch, 1865 of the 5276 hospitals that participate in the program have been penalized.

NASH has long been concerned about the manner in which the hospital-acquired conditions reduction program works, including its failure to reflect improved performance by individual hospitals and its approach of comparing the performance of hospitals that serve very different patients under very different circumstances.

Learn more about Medicare’s hospital-acquired conditions reduction program and this year’s penalties in the Kaiser Health News article “Preeminent Hospitals Penalized Over Rates Of Patients’ Injuries.”

 

NASH Unveils 2020 Advocacy Agenda

The National Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals has published its 2020 advocacy agenda.

To advance the interests of private safety-net hospitals, in the coming year NASH will:

  • Continue to address the major policy challenges of 2019 that had not been resolved as that year ended:  an extended delay of Medicaid disproportionate share (Medicaid DSH) cuts, surprise medical bills, and prescription drug prices.
  • Respond to administration-driven policies such as the calculation of Medicare disproportionate share (Medicare DSH) payments, reduced payments for prescription drugs under the 340B prescription drug discount program, and efforts to reduce Medicaid eligibility and benefits and to limit the means through which states may finance their share of Medicaid payments.
  • Respond to expected judicial decisions addressing the extension of site-neutral Medicare outpatient payments to additional outpatient settings and the implementation of a new public charge regulation.

For a more detailed look at NASH’s advocacy plans for the coming year, see its complete 2020 advocacy agenda.