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Congress Gives Hospitals Medicaid DSH Relief

Medicaid DSH allocations to states will not be reduced right away thanks to a new continuing resolution to fund the federal government through December 11.

The Medicare disproportionate share allocation cuts to the states, mandated by the Affordable Care Act but delayed by Congress several times, were delayed again earlier this year but scheduled to take effect on November 11.  With the latest continuing resolution, the cuts will be delayed yet another month.

Learn more about the delay of Medicaid DSH cuts and other aspects of the continuing resolution that affect hospitals in the Healthcare Dive article “Providers win Medicare loan extension, DSH relief but lose other asks in stop-gap spending law.”

Eliminate Medicaid DSH Cut, NASH Asks Congress

A Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government in FY 2021 should eliminate a cut in Medicaid disproportionate share (Medicaid DSH) allotments to the states, the National Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals has written in a letter to congressional leaders.

The cut was mandated by the 2010 Affordable Care Act but has never been implemented.

In its letter to congressional leaders, NASH wrote that

The Medicaid DSH cut was predicated on the expectation that the Affordable Care Act would greatly reduce the number of uninsured Americans, and while it has, millions remain uninsured. Just this week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the number of Americans without health insurance rose in 2019 – for the third consecutive year – and the job loss associated with COVID-19 is expected to continue this trend in 2020. As a result, private safety-net hospitals and others like them, serving communities with large numbers of low-income and uninsured residents, have never needed the resources afforded by Medicaid DSH more than they do today. Congress has always questioned the wisdom of this cut and has never allowed those cuts to go into effect. The most recent delay expires after November 30.

Learn more from NASH’s Medicaid DSH letter to congressional leaders.

CMS Provides Guidance on Medicaid DSH Calculations

State Medicaid program accounting for hospital uncompensated care when calculating hospital-specific Medicaid disproportionate share limits is the subject of new guidance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

In the guidance, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services explains that because of several court rulings, states can decide for themselves whether to offset third-party payer payments from costs in their Medicaid DSH calculations for periods prior to June 2, 2017 but that beginning with that date,  CMS will enforce its own interpretation of the policy.

In new guidance, CMS presents two methodologies for accounting for its mid-year policy change and reminds stakeholders about its new methodology for calculations after June 2, 2017.  Learn more from this Medicaid notice and from its accompanying CMS informational bulletin “Treatment of Third Party Payers (TPP) in Calculating Uncompensated Care Costs (UCC).”

NASH Asks Senate for COVID-19 Help

Private safety-net hospitals need help with the challenges posed by the COVID-19 public health emergency, NASH wrote yesterday in a letter to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and minority leader Charles Schumer.

In its letter, NASH asked for:

  • An additional $100 billion for hospitals.
  • Forgiveness for money provided to hospitals through the federal CARES Act’s Accelerated and Advance Payment Program.
  • Action to prevent implementation of the Medicaid fiscal accountability regulation.
  • An increase in the federal Medicaid matching rate (FMAP).
  • An increase in states’ Medicaid disproportionate share (Medicaid DSH) allotments.
  • A moratorium on changes in hospital eligibility for the 340B prescription drug discount program, Medicare indirect medical education program, Medicare disproportionate share (Medicare DSH) program, and other programs.

See NASH’s letter here.

 

NASH Calls for More COVID-19 Legislation

On Tuesday the National Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals wrote to Senate leaders and asked them to advance legislation with five major COVID-19-related policy initiatives that private safety-net hospitals seek:

  1. An additional $100 billion for hospitals.
  2. A 14-point increase in the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP).
  3. A 2.5 percent increase in states’ Medicaid disproportionate share (Medicaid DSH) allotments and another delay in implementation of Affordable Care Act-mandated cuts in those allotments.
  4. Reduced interest rates and a longer payback period for Medicare payments advanced to hospitals through the CARES Act’s Accelerated and Advance Payment Program.
  5. Prevention of implementation of the Medicare fiscal accountability regulation (MFAR).

Learn more from NASH’s letter to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer.

NASH Seeks Assistance With COVID-19 Needs

Provide special assistance to private safety-net hospitals to help them serve their communities during the COVID-19 national health emergency, NASH has asked in a letter to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and minority leader Charles Schumer.

In particular, NASH asked the Senate leaders to include three things in future COVID-19/stimulus legislation:

  1. Funding to ensure cash flow for hospitals that are investing heavily in anticipation of a major influx of challenging patients while foregoing revenue from elective procedures.
  2. The permanent elimination of Affordable Care Act-mandated cuts in Medicaid disproportionate share (Medicaid DSH) funding.
  3. Protection from any new, burdensome regulations in any legislation adopted to facilitate the fight against COVID-19.

Go here to read NASH’s letter to senators McConnell and Schumer.

 

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.

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.

Medicaid DSH Cut Delayed

Scheduled cuts in Medicaid DSH payments to hospitals will be delayed until at least late May under new federal spending legislation.

The cuts in Medicaid disproportionate share allotments to the states, mandated by the Affordable Care Act and delayed several times by Congress – including twice in FY 2020 alone under continuing resolutions to fund the federal government – are among a number of so-called “extenders” included in spending bills passed by Congress this week and sent to the president for his signature.

Authorization for delaying the cut in allotments to the states, which would have resulted in reduced Medicaid DSH payments for many hospitals – including private safety-net hospitals – would expire on May 22.  Congress is expected to address Medicaid DSH, along with surprise medical bills, the price of prescription drugs, and other health care matters, before that time.

NASH has argued against Medicaid DSH cuts for a number of years, doing so most recently in this September 2019 position statement in which it observed that

The conditions that led Congress to believe Medicaid DSH payments could be reduced significantly without harming the health care safety net have not unfolded entirely as anticipated. While many Americans have taken advantage of the Affordable Care Act to obtain health insurance, millions remain uninsured…

NASH also noted that

…any decline now in Medicaid DSH payments could lead to an increase in the provision of charity care, possibly forcing hospitals to reduce services, limit community outreach, and even reduce staff. Such measures could jeopardize access to care not only for hospitals’ uninsured and low-income patients but also for their privately insured, Medicare, and Medicaid patients as well.

Learn more about the delay in Medicaid DSH cuts and other aspects of this recent health care spending legislation in the Becker’s Hospital Review article “Congress unveils $1.3T spending deal: 5 healthcare takeaways.”

 

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 Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission kicked off its December meeting with highlights from its forthcoming issue of MACStats: Medicaid and CHIP Data Book, due out December 18, 2019. MACStats brings together statistics on Medicaid and State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) enrollment and spending, federal matching rates, eligibility levels, and access to care measures, which come from multiple sources.

Later the Commission discussed a proposed rule that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued in November, which—among other changes—would increase federal oversight of Medicaid supplemental payments. The final morning session addressed payment error rates in Medicaid, with a briefing on the annual Department of Health and Human Services Agency Financial Report (AFR). Fiscal year 2019 was the first time that the AFR incorporated eligibility errors since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid eligibility and enrollment changes took effect in 2014.

After lunch, MACPAC staff summarized themes from expert roundtables convened in November, one to explore Medicaid policy on high-cost specialty drugs and another on the need for more actionable Section 1115 demonstration evaluations. Then, the Commission turned its attention to Medicaid estate recovery policies. The final session of the day looked at issues associated with reforming the current Medicaid financing structure to better respond to economic downturns.

At Friday’s opening session, the Commission considered policy options to increase participation in Medicare Savings Programs, which provide Medicare cost-sharing assistance to beneficiaries who are dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare. Afterward, the Commission continued its examination of care integration for dually eligible beneficiaries, this time focusing on policy options to reduce barriers to integrated care. The Commission then switched gears for a briefing on a new MACPAC analysis of Medicaid’s role in financing maternity care. The December meeting concluded with a review of the draft chapter for the Commission’s March report to Congress analyzing disproportionate share hospital (DSH) payments.

Supporting the discussion were the following briefing papers:

  1. MACStats: Medicaid and CHIP Data Book
  2. Review of Proposed Rule on Supplemental Payments and Financing
  3. Review of PERM Findings
  4. Themes from Expert Roundtable on Medicaid Policy on High-Cost Drugs
  5. Improving the Quality and Timeliness of Section 1115 Demonstration Evaluations: Themes from Expert Roundtable
  6. Medicaid Estate Recovery Policies
  7. Policy and Design Issues for a Countercyclical Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage
  8. Medicare Savings Programs Policy Options
  9. Barriers to Integrated Care for Dually Eligible Beneficiaries
  10. Medicaid’s Role in Financing Maternity Care
  11. Review of Draft Chapter on Statutorily Required Analyses of Disproportionate Share Hospital Payment

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.