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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.

 

Hospitals, Others Oppose Easing Medicaid Access Requirements

Hospital groups and other health care interest organizations have expressed strong opposition to a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposal to ease requirements that states ensure adequate access to care for their Medicaid population.

Under current federal Medicaid law, states must periodically review their Medicaid provider networks to ensure that Medicaid recipients have adequate access to care.  Under a March CMS proposal, that requirement would exempt states from performing such reviews if at least 85 percent of their Medicaid population is enrolled in a managed care plan and similarly exempt them from reviewing the impact on their provider networks of rate cuts of less than four percent during a single state fiscal year or six percent over two consecutive years.

Fearing that the proposal could jeopardize access to care for Medicaid recipients, the overwhelming majority of comments submitted to CMS expressed strong opposition to the proposal.  Among those doing so were the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Federation of American Hospitals, the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, the Tennessee Hospital Association, the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and others.

For a closer look at what the regulation proposes and how various groups have responded to it, see these Fierce Healthcare and Healthcare Dive articles.

 

MACPAC Meets

The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, a non-partisan legislative branch agency that advises Congress, the administration, and the states on Medicaid and CHIP issues, met publicly in Washington, D.C. last week.

The following is MACPAC’s own summary of its two days of meetings.

The April 2018 meeting began with session on social determinants of health. Panelists Jocelyn Guyer of Manatt Health Solutions, Arlene Ash of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and Kevin Moore of UnitedHealthcare Community & State discussed state approaches to financing social interventions through Medicaid. In its second morning session, the Commission reviewed a draft chapter of the June 2018 Report to Congress on Medicaid and CHIP on the adequacy of the care delivery system for substance use disorders (SUDs) with a special focus on opioid use disorders.

In the afternoon, the Commission discussed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) March 2018 proposed rule changing the process by which states verify that Medicaid fee-for-service provider payment is sufficient to ensure access to care and agreed to submit comments to the agency. The first day of the meeting concluded with a review of the draft June chapter describing the status of managed long-term services and supports programs across the country. June chapters on Medicaid drug rebate policy and federal regulations governing confidentiality of SUD patient records were approved at the previous Commission meeting in March.

On Friday, the Commission heard from panelists Susan Barnidge, of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), and Judith Cash of CMS’s Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services, who discussed GAO’s report on Section 1115 demonstration evaluations and CMS’s efforts to improve the evaluation process. In the final session of the day, the Commission examined issues related to upper payment limit (UPL) hospital payments, which included findings from MACPAC’s recent review of state UPL demonstrations.

MACPAC members addressed a number of policy issues during the sessions using the following presentations to guide their discussion:

  1. State Approaches to Financing Social Interventions through Medicaid
  2. Draft Chapter: Access to Substance Use Disorder Treatment in Medicaid
  3. Proposed Rule on Exemptions to Monitoring Access in Fee for Service
  4. Draft Chapter: Managed Long-Term Services and Supports Programs
  5. Panel Discussion on Section 1115 Waiver Evaluations
  6. Uses and Oversight of Upper Payment Limit Supplemental Payments to Hospitals

MACPAC’s deliberations are especially important to private safety-net hospitals because they care for so many Medicaid and CHIP patients.

CMS Proposes Easing Medicaid Access Requirement

Under a new regulation proposed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, some states would no longer need to analyze access to care for their Medicaid population.

In a newly proposed regulation, CMS calls for eliminating the need for such a review in states with a high degree of Medicaid managed care penetration – 85 percent or more – and under certain circumstances when they reduce payments to providers.

According to CMS, existing regulations already enforce access requirements for Medicaid managed care plans, making a separate state obligation duplicative and unnecessary.

A CMS news release accompanying publication of the proposed rule quotes CMS administrator Seema Verma explaining that

These new policies do not mean that we aren’t interested in beneficiary access, but are intended to relieve unnecessary regulatory burden on states, avoid increasing administrative costs for taxpayers, and refocus time and resources on improving the health outcomes of Medicaid beneficiaries.

Learn more about the proposed regulation in this CMS news release and go here to see the proposed regulation itself.

Medicaid Enrollees: Access and Quality Are Good

Medicaid beneficiaries are generally satisfied with their access to care and the quality of care they receive.

Or so reports a new study based on results of the federal Medicaid Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) survey for December of 2014 to July of 2015.

According to the survey, nearly half of Medicaid patients rated their overall care 7.9 or greater on a scale of 10; 84 percent reported that they had been able to receive all of the care they needed over the past six months; and most were generally satisfied with the coverage.  Relatively few reported problems finding providers willing to accept their Medicaid coverage.

Survey results generally were slightly more positive in Medicaid expansion states than in non-expansion states.

Private safety-net hospitals serve especially large numbers of Medicaid patients.

Learn more about how Medicaid beneficiaries view the quality and accessibility of the care they receive in the JAMA Internal Medicine report “What Enrollees Think of Medicaid | Health Care Reform,” which can be found here.

CMS Requires States to Monitor Medicaid Access

A new federal regulation requires states to monitor access to Medicaid services.

According to a new regulation issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), states must submit to CMS plans for monitoring Medicaid beneficiary access to care in five service areas: primary care, physician specialists, behavioral care; pre- and post-natal care; and home health services.

federal registerState monitoring plans must address the extent to which Medicaid is meeting beneficiaries’ needs; the availability of care; changes in service utilization; and comparisons between Medicaid rates and rates paid by other public and private payers.

Interested parties have 60 days to submit comments to CMS about the new regulation.

For a closer look at the regulation, see this CMS fact sheet and the regulation itself here, in the Federal Register.

But Does Coverage Mean Access?

More than 12 million people have joined the Medicaid rolls in the U.S. since the Affordable Care Act’s voluntary expansion of Medicaid eligibility began in January of 2014.

Happy medical team of doctors togetherHistorically, however, many Medicaid patients have had a difficult time finding doctors willing to serve them because in many states, Medicaid payments are so low that doctors choose not to participate in the program.

Is that still the case today? What challenges do Medicaid patients face when they need medical care?

In a new article titled “You’ve Got Medicaid – Why Can’t You See the Doctor?”, U.S. News & World Report takes a look at this issue. Find its report here.