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Medicaid DSH Delay Advances in Energy and Commerce Committee

Medicaid disproportionate share cuts would be delayed for two years under a proposal advanced last week by the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The Medicaid DSH cuts, mandated by the Affordable Care Act, have already been delayed three times by Congress and could be on their way to a fourth delay if the proposal advanced by the Health Subcommittee is endorsed by the Energy and Commerce Committee and works its way to the full House of Representatives, where such a proposal is thought to enjoy wide support.

The National Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals has long endorsed the delay and even the repeal of cuts in Medicaid DSH payments, doing so most recently in a letter earlier this year to Senate Finance Committee chairman Charles Grassley in which it argues that those cuts would be especially harmful to private safety-net hospitals.

Learn more about the possibility of another delay of Medicaid DSH cuts in the HealthLeaders article “House Panel Advances Surprise Bill Package.”

 

Medicaid DSH Delay Wins Bipartisan Support

More than 300 members of the U.S. House have joined a letter to House leadership urging a delay in Affordable Care Act-mandated cuts in Medicaid disproportionate share payments (Medicaid DSH).

The bipartisan letter notes that hospitals that receive Medicaid DSH funds cannot absorb the loss of revenue such a cut would bring.  That cut, scheduled to begin in FY 2020, would amount to a $4 billion reduction in nation-wide Medicaid DSH spending in FY 2020 and an $8 billion reduction in each of FY 2021, FY 2022, FY 2023, FY 2024, and FY 2025.

NASH was actively involved in urging House members to join the letter.  If implemented, the Medicaid DSH cuts would be especially harmful to NASH members and all private safety-net hospitals – and to the low-income residents of the communities they serve.

See the bipartisan letter seeking a delay of Medicaid DSH cuts here.

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.

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.”

 

Delay Medicaid DSH Cuts, Pelosi Says

Medicaid DSH cuts should be delayed, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told a gathering of hospital officials.

According to Speaker Pelosi,

DSH cuts threaten to erode the health of community hospitals, safety-net hospitals and rural hospitals, [affecting] the health of not only the families that rely on Medicaid, but any person who relies on these hospitals for care.

NASH has long urged Congress to delay or even eliminate Affordable Care Act-mandated cuts of Medicaid disproportionate share payments, doing so twice in the past week: first in a letter to Senate Finance Committee chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) and then in a message to all House members. NASH believes this cut would be especially harmful for the nation’s private safety-net hospitals.

Learn more about Speaker Pelosi’s remarks in the Becker’s Hospital Review article “House speaker urges Congress to ease Medicaid payment cuts to hospitals serving low-income patients.”

NASH Asks House to Support Delay of Medicaid DSH Cut

Working to prevent the scheduled October 2019 reduction of Medicaid DSH allocations to the states, NASH has reached out to the House of Representatives for help.

In a message delivered to all House members, NASH asked those members to sign onto a bipartisan letter being circulated by two of their colleagues, Representatives Eliot Engel (D-CA) and Pete Olson (R-TX), that asks House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to advance legislation to delay an Affordable Care Act-mandated reduction of Medicaid disproportionate share allocations to the states.  Congress has already delayed this cut three times.

In its letter, NASH explains that

If implemented, this cut would be harmful for private safety-net hospitals and the communities they serve throughout the country.

See the Engel-Olson letter here and see NASH’s message to House members 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.

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.

More Potential Budget Obstacles for Private Safety-Net Hospitals

Part two of the Trump administration’s proposed FY 2020 budget brought more potential bad news for private safety-net hospitals.

 

Last week’s “lean budget” released by the White House included a number of challenges for private safety-net hospitals and this week’s release, intended to fill in some of the blanks that last week’s document left, brought more of the same.

Proposed Medicare challenges include:

  • a call for establishing a new process for calculating Medicare disproportionate share (Medicare DSH) uncompensated care payments
  • slashing Medicare bad debt reimbursement from 65 percent to 25 percent
  • continued movement toward site-neutral payments for outpatient services provided at hospital outpatient facilities

Newly proposed Medicaid challenges include:

  • extending Medicaid disproportionate share (Medicaid DSH) cuts beyond the currently planned six years
  • redesigning the formula for allocating Medicaid DSH funds to the states
  • authorizing states to verify beneficiaries’ Medicaid eligibility more than once a year
  • permitting states to apply means tests to Medicaid eligibility

The latest FY 2020 budget proposal also calls for:

  • consolidating Medicare, Medicaid, and children’s hospital medical education payments into single new capped medical education grant program
  • reduced 340B prescription drug discount program payments for some hospitals
  • reducing the grace period for payment of premiums for health insurance purchased on an insurance exchange
  • income-based increases in premiums for low-cost insurance purchased on those exchanges

All of these changes, if implemented, would pose problems for NASH members and most private safety-net hospitals.

Learn more from this week’s White House budget document.

Hospital Groups Join NASH in Calling for Delay of Medicaid DSH Cuts

Seven hospital trade groups have written to congressional leaders asking them to delay Affordable Care Act-mandated cuts in Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payments (Medicaid DSH) that are scheduled to take effect in October of this year.

Their letter echoes a long-time advocacy priority of the National Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals.

In their letter the groups, led by the American Hospital Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges, write of the underlying rationale for the Affordable Care Act mandate for Medicaid DSH cuts that

…the coverage rates envisioned under the ACA have not been fully realized, and tens of millions of Americans remain uninsured. In addition, Medicaid underpayment continues to pose ongoing financial challenges for hospitals treating our nation’s most vulnerable citizens.

NASH has long advocated such delaying Medicaid DSH cuts, most recently in comments to Congress in response to the proposed State Accountability, Flexibility, and Equity for Hospitals Act.

Delaying Medicaid DSH cuts also is identified as an advocacy priority of private safety-net hospitals in NASH’s 2019 policy and advocacy agenda.