Verma Addresses Medicaid Issues

Yesterday, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator Seema Verma spoke at a conference of the National Association of Medicaid Directors.

In addition to discussing a proposed regulation posted earlier in the day that would introduce changes in the regulation of state financing of their Medicaid programs, Verma also addressed:

  • Medicaid demonstration programs
  • Medicaid work requirements
  • a shift toward value-based payments
  • better coordination of care for the dually eligible (individuals serve by both Medicaid and Medicare)
  • enrollment issues
  • improvements in the efficiency of the federal Medicaid bureaucracy

Because private safety-net hospitals care for so many more Medicaid patients than the typical hospital, these issues are especially important to them.

Read Verma’s complete remarks here.

MedPAC Meets

Last week the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission met in Washington, D.C. to discuss a number of Medicare payment issues.

The issues on MedPAC’s November agenda were:

  • congressional request on health care provider consolidation
  • increasing the supply of primary care physicians
  • redesigning the Medicare Advantage quality bonus program
  • reforming the benchmarks in the Medicare Advantage payment system
  • considerations for plans serving low-income beneficiaries in the restructuring of Medicare Part D
  • post-acute care spending under the Medicare Shared Savings Program

MedPAC is an independent congressional agency that advises Congress on issues involving the Medicare program.  While its recommendations are not binding on either Congress or the administration, MedPAC is highly influential in governing circles and its recommendations often find their way into legislation, regulations, and new public policy.  Those recommendations, in turn, can have a major impact on the nation’s private safety-net hospitals.

Go here for links to the policy briefs and presentations that supported MedPAC’s discussion of these issues.

MACPAC Looks at Medicaid DSH

At a time when cuts in Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payments (Medicaid DSH) are still scheduled for the current fiscal year and some in Congress are calling for a new approach to allotting DSH funds among the states, the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission has released its annual analysis of Medicaid DSH allotments to the states.

The report includes:

  • data about changes in the uninsured rate
  • demographic information about the uninsured
  • information about the cost of hospital uncompensated care
  • perspectives on hospital Medicaid shortfalls
  • a comparison of hospital uncompensated care costs when calculated using different methodologies
  • data about hospitals that provide “essential community services”
  • information about scheduled Medicaid DSH allotment reductions

All private safety-net hospitals receive Medicaid DSH payments and consider the program an essential tool for serving their communities.

MACPAC will issue a more complete report to Congress in March of 2020.

Learn more about how MACPAC views Medicaid DSH at a time when the program is scheduled to change – and when some want even more change – in the new MACPAC document “Required Analyses of Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) Allotments.”

 

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 devoted its Thursday morning discussion to integration of care for beneficiaries who are dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare. Panelists Amber Christ, directing attorney at Justice in Aging; Griffin Myers, chief medical officer at Oak Street Health; and Michael Monson, senior vice president for Medicaid and complex care at Centene, presented beneficiary, provider, and health plan perspectives and a question and answer session followed.

After lunch, MACPAC staff briefed the Commission on challenges states face as they prepare for mandatory reporting of quality measures for children enrolled in Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and behavioral health measures for adults enrolled in Medicaid. Immediately following that session, the Commission reviewed a new MACPAC-commissioned study on the effects of federal legislation that provided new buprenorphine prescribing authority for nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

After a brief break, MACPAC staff updated the Commission on the status of the Transformed Medicaid Statistical Information System (T-MSIS). The final Thursday session discussed disproportionate share hospital (DSH) allotments as required in MACPAC’s annual March reports to Congress.

MACPAC’s Friday agenda opened with a session on improving Medicaid policies related to third-party liability: specifically, coordination of benefits with TRICARE, the health coverage program for active duty military and their dependents. There are close to 1 million Medicaid beneficiaries with TRICARE coverage but Medicaid’s ability to collect from TRICARE is limited. The final session of the October meeting addressed Medicaid and maternal health.

Supporting the discussion were the following briefing papers:

  1. State Readiness to Report Mandatory Core Set Measures
  2. Analysis of Buprenorphine Prescribing Patterns among Advanced Practitioners in Medicaid
  3. Update on Transformed Medicaid Statistical Information System (T-MSIS)
  4. Required Analyses of Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) Allotments
  5. Improving Medicaid Policies Related to Third-Party Liability
  6. Medicaid and Maternal Health: Work Plan and Further Discussion

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.  MACPAC’s deliberations are especially important to private safety-net hospitals because those hospitals care for especially large numbers of Medicaid patients.  Find MACPAC’s web site here.

Medicaid Expansion Brings Improvements to Expansion States

States that expanded their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act have experienced fewer hospital admissions, shorter lengths of stays in the hospital, and lower hospital costs, according to a new Health Affairs study.

Specifically, they experienced:

  • a 3.1 percent decline in inpatient days
  • a 3.5 percent decrease in discharges for conditions considered “ambulatory care-sensitive,” such as diabetes, chronic respiratory problems, and pneumonia
  • a reduction of nearly three percent in hospital costs.

NASH has long supported Medicaid expansion, which has enabled private safety-net hospitals to serve their communities more effectively.

Learn more about how Medicaid expansion has improved the health of the population in states that expanded their Medicaid programs in the Health Affairs study “Medicaid Expansion Associated With Reductions in Preventable Hospitalizations.”

MACPAC Looks at Medicaid Substance Abuse Treatment

The treatment of substance abuse problems with medication within the Medicaid population is the subject of a new report by the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission.

As required by the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act, which was enacted last year, MACPAC has prepared a report on how selected states administer and regulate the use of medications used to treat opioid and alcohol use disorders.

Among its findings:

  • The frequency with which providers are prescribing medication to treat opioid and alcohol use disorders has exploded in recent years.
  • States are starting to eliminate prior authorization for such prescriptions.
  • But states still apply utilization management practices to such medications more frequently than they do for counseling for the same problems.
  • States are becoming more likely to limit the quantities and doses that providers can prescribe at one time.
  • More states are requiring providers to check prescription drug monitoring programs before prescribing medications to treat opioid and alcohol use disorders.

Private safety-net hospitals typically care for especially large numbers of  patients with opioid and alcohol use disorders who are insured by Medicaid.

Learn more about MACPAC’s findings in its new report “MACPAC Examines Access to Medication-Assisted Treatment under Medicaid.”

 

Safety-Net Hospitals Gird for Loss of Medicaid DSH Money

Safety-net hospitals and others will lose a significant portion of their Medicaid disproportionate share (Medicaid DSH) payments on November 22 unless Congress delays implementation of the cut in those payments that was mandated by the Affordable Care Act.

And hospitals that receive these payments are now preparing for the worst.

The Medicaid DSH cut was included in the 2010 health care reform law in anticipation of a great reduction in the number of uninsured people leaving hospitals providing much less uncompensated care and therefore not in need of as much DSH money.  The law’s reach has not proven to be as great as anticipated, however, and two developments since the law’s passage have put a damper on the expected rise in the number of insured Americans:  a court decision that made it optional for states to expand their Medicaid program and the repeal of the requirement that everyone purchase health insurance.

Four times Congress has voted to delay the Medicaid DSH cut because so many people remained uninsured.  Now, however, the most recent delay in implementation of the cut, via a provision in the continuing resolution currently funding the federal government, expires on November 21, and hospitals – many of them already with razor-thin margins – are preparing for the worst:  a major reduction of their federal Medicaid DSH money.

NASH has asked Congress to delay the implementation of Medicaid DSH cuts on numerous occasions, citing their potential impact on the ability of private-safety-net hospitals to serve their communities.  NASH most recently made this request in September, urging members of Congress to support the continuing bipartisan effort to delay the cut.

Learn more about the prospect of a major Medicaid DSH cut later this month, how it might affect safety-net hospitals – including the kinds of private safety-net hospitals represented by NASH – and what some hospitals are doing to prepare for the possibility in the Stateline article “Rural and Safety Net Hospitals Prepare for Cut in Federal Support.”

High-Deductible Plans Losing Luster Amid Low Unemployment

The competition for employees is leading more businesses to offer more generous health insurance plans in addition to high-deductible plans.

As health insurance premiums rose in recent years, more and more companies were offering their employees more high-deductible insurance options to help keep down the cost of premiums.  Now, however, with some workers clamoring for more conventional plans and businesses finding themselves in competition for workers at a time of low unemployment, more businesses are offering those conventional plans to their workers.

2020, in fact, will mark the third consecutive year during which the percentage of companies offering only high-deductible health insurance plans will fall.

Serving patients with high-deductible health insurance can pose a special challenge for private safety-net hospitals.  Often, patients in the low-income communities these hospitals serve cannot afford to pay their deductibles, leaving such hospitals to absorb the cost of this uncompensated care.

Learn more about how businesses are adjusting their health insurance offerings in response to employee demand and competitive concerns in the Kaiser Health News article “Employers are Scaling Back Their Dependence on High-Deductible Health Plans.”

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.”

Number of Uninsured Children on the Rise

The number of children insured by Medicaid and CHIP has fallen by more than one million over the past two years after reaching an all-time low (by percentage) in 2016.

Why?  According to the New York Times,

Some state and federal officials have portrayed the drop — 3 percent of enrolled children — as a success story, arguing that more Americans are getting coverage from employers in an improving economy. But there is growing evidence that administrative changes aimed at fighting fraud and waste — and rising fears of deportation in immigrant communities — are pushing large numbers of children out of the programs, and that many of them are now going without coverage. The declines are concentrated in a minority of states; in other places, public coverage has actually increased.  The declines appear to be greatest in states like Texas and Tennessee that subject Medicaid and CHIP eligibility to a higher degree of scrutiny than other states.  Declines also appear to be greater in places with larger numbers of immigrants who are wary of applying for Medicaid and CHIP or remaining in those programs in light of changes in federal “public charge” regulations.

Any increase in the number of uninsured children poses a challenge to private safety-net hospitals because these are the very hospitals to which low-income and uninsured families turn for care – regardless of whether they have health insurance.

Learn more about the various reasons for the decline of enrollment by children in Medicaid and CHIP in the New York Times article “Medicaid Now Covers a Million Fewer Children.”