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.

MACPAC kicked off its April meeting with a review of a draft chapter for the June 2021 report to Congress and recommendations on addressing high-cost specialty drugs. Since 2017, the Commission has been working to identify potential models that could help states address the challenges of high prices. The presentation focused on drugs that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the accelerated approval pathway. Such approvals are based on whether the drug has an effect on a surrogate endpoint that is reasonably likely to predict a clinical benefit; however, unlike under the traditional pathway, the clinical benefit has yet to be verified.

On Friday, the Commission voted to approve two recommendations* that address Medicaid payment for such drugs. The recommendations would increase the rebates under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program on accelerated approval drugs until these drugs have verified the clinical benefit. Once the FDA converts the drugs to traditional approval, the rebates would revert back to the standard amounts.

Commissioners then turned their attention to ways states can integrate care through Medicare Advantage dual eligible special needs plans (D-SNPs) using contract authority under the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (MIPPA, P.L. 110-275). The draft chapter for the June report describes why MACPAC is focused on D-SNPs, MIPPA strategies available to states, state ability to use these strategies, and MACPAC’s plans for future work on specific strategies that if made mandatory could give further momentum to state efforts.

The Commission then discussed two additional draft chapters for the June 2021 report related to behavioral health services. Staff presented a draft chapter and recommendations on improving access to mental health services for adult Medicaid beneficiaries, followed by a draft chapter and recommendations on improving access to behavioral health services for children and youth.

Commissioners on Friday approved recommendations* that call on the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to:

  • direct relevant agencies to issue joint subregulatory guidance that addresses how Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) can be used to fund a crisis continuum for beneficiaries experiencing behavioral health crises;
  • direct a coordinated effort to provide education, technical assistance, and planning support to expand access to such services;
  • direct relevant agencies to issue joint subregulatory guidance that addresses the design and implementation of benefits for children and adolescents with significant mental health conditions covered by Medicaid and CHIP; and
  • direct a coordinated effort to provide education, technical assistance, and planning support to expand access to such services.

After a break on Thursday, Commissioners discussed a draft chapter for the June 2021 report to Congress on how electronic health records (EHRs) can be used to strengthen clinical integration and improve patient care.  Adoption of EHRs remains low among behavioral health providers. The chapter provides an overview of MACPAC’s work to date on clinical integration for behavioral and  physical health services, and discusses how data-sharing can improve the quality of care for beneficiaries with behavioral health conditions. It concludes by identifying ways to strengthen EHR uptake among Medicaid’s behavioral health providers.

Next, Commissioners reviewed a draft chapter on non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT). In recent years, policymakers at the state and federal levels have begun to re-examine this benefit. As part of a congressionally mandated request, MACPAC conducted a multi-pronged study of NEMT that will be published as a chapter in the June 2021 report to Congress. This presentation included the key findings of MACPAC’s study and an overview of the topics covered in the draft chapter.

On Friday, the day kicked off with a discussion of the challenges that states face in providing more care through home- and community-based services (HCBS). As of fiscal year (FY) 2018, HCBS spending as a percentage of long-term services and supports spending remained under 50 percent in 18 states and the District of Columbia. To understand why some states have made less progress in rebalancing, MACPAC contracted with RTI International and the Center for Healthcare Strategies. This presentation summarized the results of the work, as well as proposed policy considerations.

The Commission then heard a staff presentation on key Medicaid and CHIP managed care quality requirements, as well as quality improvement and measurement activities conducted by states, plans, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Staff also provided a summary of preliminary findings on state performance over time on selected core set measures and managed care plan performance on performance improvement projects, which suggest the effectiveness of these efforts is unclear. Staff and Commissioners identified potential areas for future MACPAC work related to quality of care in Medicaid and CHIP.

After the Commission voted on several recommendations, staff provided an update on the current state of Transformed Medicaid Statistical Information System (T-MSIS) data submissions and MACPAC’s work to validate and analyze the data. MACPAC found that data submissions have improved since 2016, but some challenges remain.

The meeting concluded with a panel discussion about Medicaid’s use of telehealth services, which expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic. Commissioners heard from Chethan Bachireddy, chief medical officer for the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services; Tracy Johnson, Medicaid director for the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing; and Sara Salek, chief medical officer for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System. Panelists described the use of telehealth during the pandemic, considerations for post-pandemic telehealth policies, and challenges to the use and adoption of telehealth in Medicaid and how these states are addressing them.

*All recommendations were approved as presented in draft.

Supporting the discussion were the following briefing papers:

  1. High-Cost Specialty Drugs Review of Draft Chapter and Recommendations
  2. Strategies for State Contracts with Dual Eligible Special Needs Plans
  3. Access to Mental Health Services for Adults: Draft Chapter and Recommendations
  4. Access to Behavioral Health Services for Children and Adolescents: Draft Chapter and Recommendations
  5. Electronic Health Records as a Tool for Integration of Behavioral Health Services
  6. Mandated Report: Non-Emergency Medical Transportation Benefit
  7. Progress on Rebalancing: Lessons from States
  8. Ensuring Medicaid and CHIP Quality
  9. Update on Transformed Medicaid Statistical Information System (T-MSIS)
  10. Panel Discussion: What States are Learning from Expanded Use of Telehealth

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.

MedPAC: Go Slow on Expanding Medicare Telehealth

MedPAC wants Medicare to test the impact of telehealth on health care under non-COVID-19 conditions before moving forward with expanding the tool’s use in the Medicare population.

In a news release accompanying its recently released annual report to Congress on Medicare payment policy, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission writes that

In the report, we present a policy option for expanded coverage for Medicare telehealth policy after the PHE is over. Under the policy option, policymakers should temporarily continue some of the telehealth expansions for a limited duration of time (e.g., one to two years after the PHE) to gather more evidence about the impact of telehealth on beneficiary access to care, quality of care, and program spending to inform any permanent changes. During this limited period, Medicare should temporarily pay for specified telehealth services provided to all beneficiaries regardless of their location, and it should continue to cover certain newly-covered telehealth services and certain audio-only telehealth services if there is potential for clinical benefit.

The policy option also specifies that after the PHE ends, Medicare should return to paying the physician fee schedule’s facility rate for telehealth services and collect data on the cost of providing those services. In addition, providers should not be allowed to reduce or waive beneficiary cost sharing for telehealth services after the PHE. CMS should also implement other safeguards to protect the Medicare program and its beneficiaries from unnecessary spending and potential fraud related to telehealth.

While MedPAC’s recommendations to Congress are not binding on the administration, its work is highly respected and it is considered influential in the development of Medicare reimbursement policy.

Learn more about what MedPAC has to say about telehealth services and other aspects of Medicare payment policy in this MedPAC news release and the MedPAC’s newly released Report to the Congress:  Medicare Payment Policy.