Posts

Uninsured Rate Rose in 2017

The rate of uninsured Americans rose in 2017, the first such increase since implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

According to a new Urban Institute study,

The increasing uninsurance rate between 2016 and 2017 was driven by losses of private nongroup coverage, such as that purchased in the health insurance marketplaces, and decreases in Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage (-0.4 percentage points each).

In addition,

Overall, coverage losses were concentrated in the 19 states that did not expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act by July 1, 2017…Between 2016 and 2017, uninsurance held stable in Medicaid expansion states but increased by 0.5 percentage points in nonexpansion states.

The study also noted that these declines occurred at a time when the economy was considered strong, incomes were rising, and more employers were sponsoring insurance coverage.

Learn more about where and why the number of uninsured people rose in 2017 in the Urban Institute report “Health Insurance Coverage Declined for Nonelderly Americans Between 2016 and 2017, Primarily in States That Did Not Expand Medicaid.”

ACA Tied to Reduced Disparities in Cancer Care

Improved access to health insurance has led to reduced racial disparities in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

As reported by the Washington Post,

According to researchers involved in the racial-disparity study, before the ACA went into effect, African Americans with advanced cancer were 4.8 percentage points less likely to start treatment for their disease within 30 days of being given a diagnosis.  But today, black adults in states that expanded Medicaid under the law have almost entirely caught up with white patients in getting timely treatment, researchers said.

Another study found that since the reform law’s implementation in Medicaid expansion states, women are being diagnosed and treated earlier for ovarian cancer than they were in the past.

Many of these patients receiving more timely care are served by private safety-net hospitals, which care for more Medicaid patients than most community hospitals.

Researchers also note that disparities, so often viewed from a racial and socio-demographic perspective, are now being seen on a geographic basis depending on whether individual states expanded their Medicaid program.  As one observer explained,

We are moving from black-white disparities to Massachusetts versus Mississippi disparities.

Learn more from the Washington Post article “ACA linked to reduced racial disparities, earlier diagnosis and treatment in cancer care.”

 

Medicaid Expansion Helps Pregnant Women and Their Babies

An intuitive assumption now has evidence to support it:  Medicaid expansion has improved the health of pregnant women and their babies.

According to a new study from the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families,

…states that expand Medicaid improve the health of women of childbearing age:  increasing access to preventive care, reducing adverse health outcomes before, during and after pregnancies, and reducing maternal mortality rates.

Better health for women of childbearing age also means better health for their infants.  States that have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act saw a 50 percent greater reduction in infant mortality than non-expansion states.

Learn more, including specific health benefits enjoyed by pregnant women and their babies, in the Georgetown study “Medicaid Expansion Fills Gaps in Maternal Health Coverage Leading to Healthier Mothers and Babies.”

“Rejected” Medicaid Reforms May Resurface

Partial Medicaid expansion, desired by some Republican governors but rejected by the Trump administration last year, may not be so rejected after all.

At least not according to Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which oversees the federal Medicaid program.

In a recent interview, Verma said the administration is reconsidering its rejection of partial Medicaid expansion, an idea she supports and that

What I have said to states and to governors [is] “Tell me what you want to do, and it’s my job to help you get to where you want to go.”

To emphasize this point, Verma also said that

We are changing the partnership between the federal and state government.  We are trying to empower states.

The National Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals supports Medicaid expansion everywhere.

Learn more about Verma’s recent remarks about Medicaid expansion in the Politico article “Seema Verma:  Medicaid reform rejected by Trump is ‘under review.’”

 

States Taking Different Paths to Pay for Medicaid Expansion

With the federal share of Medicaid expansion falling to 90 percent next year, states that expanded their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act are now exploring new ways to raise the money to pay for the 10 percent for which they will soon by responsible.

Some are implementing hospital or insurer taxes while others are increasing existing taxes on hospitals and health insurers.  New Hampshire is directing part of the proceeds from a liquor tax for this purpose and other states have introduced cigarette taxes.  Some are charging premiums to Medicaid beneficiaries and introducing Medicaid work requirements so they can reduce overall enrollment.  Many are using money from their general revenues.

This all comes at a time when many states are finding that their budget situations have improved and are better than they have been in years.

Learn more about how states are dealing with this challenge, and whether they are finding that it is worth it, in the Washington Post article “States scramble to head off future Medicaid shortfalls.”

Election Brings Good News for Medicaid

Medicaid came out on top in elections throughout the country last week.

With the arrival of a Democratic majority in the House, attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, including its Medicaid expansion, appear to have come to an end – at least for now.

Voters in three states approved ballot questions to expand their states’ Medicaid programs.

And two states elected governors likely to expand their states’ Medicaid programs.

Learn more about what the mid-term elections meant to Medicaid and its future in this Washington Post story.

 

Medicaid Expansion Helping Diabetics

The Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion has led to a 40 percent increase in the number of prescriptions for diabetes medicine filled in the 30 states that expanded their Medicaid programs.

Meanwhile, there was no change in the number of diabetes-related prescriptions filled in states that did not expand their Medicaid programs.

This is considered important because it suggests that many low-income people who either could not afford their diabetes medicine or whose illness was undiagnosed are now being treated for the disease – a significant development because every diabetic who is treated for the condition represents a cost savings of $6394 a year, mostly because of fewer hospitalizations.

Because diabetes is especially prevalent in the low-income communities urban safety-net hospitals serve, these hospitals have played a major role in bringing much-needed treatment to their communities, improving their health of their residents, and helping to reduce health care costs.

Learn more about how Medicaid expansion is improving the health of low-income people with diabetes and lowering health care spending in this California Healthline report or go here to see the Health Affairs study “Medicaid Eligibility Expansions May Address Gaps in Access to Diabetes Medications” on which that report is based.

Verdict: Medicaid Expansion Improved Care and Access

A new review of studies published since the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion has concluded that expansion improved care, access to care, and coverage in states that expanded their Medicaid programs.

Among the improvements cited by studies are:

  • greater use of primary care
  • more preventive health visits
  • more behavioral health care
  • shorter hospital stays
  • fewer avoidable hospital admissions
  • reduced access problems
  • reduced reliance on hospital ERs as a primary source of care
  • improved monitoring and compliance rates for patients with diabetes and hypertension
  • higher rates of screening for prostate cancer and Pap smears

In addition, hospitals provided less uncompensated care and had better margins.

Learn more in the Health Affairs study “The Effects Of Medicaid Expansion Under The ACA:  A Systematic Review,” which can be found here, or go here for a Healthcare Dive summary of the study.

Medicaid Changes: More Than Just Work Requirements Coming?

While the green light for state applications to impose work requirements on their Medicaid recipients is receiving all of the attention, the Trump administration has issued guidance that appears to pave the way for other major changes in the Medicaid program as well.

Specifically, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has issued guidance that will enable states to pursue section 1115 waivers to test different ways of serving Medicaid patients that are otherwise not permitted under federal Medicaid law, including:

  • establishing time limits on how many months or years individuals may be enrolled in Medicaid;
  • locking out for a specified period of time Medicaid recipients who have not gone through annual eligibility redetermination or have failed to pay Medicaid premiums;
  • prohibiting hospitals from making presumptive eligibility determinations when they encounter new, low-income patients who are not enrolled in Medicaid at the time;
  • tightening their eligibility requirements;
  • excluding family planning providers like Planned Parenthood; and
  • establishing closed drug formularies for their Medicaid population.

Learn more about how the foundation has been laid for such changes if states are so inclined to pursue them and the implications of such changes if they are implemented in the article “State Waivers as a National Policy Lever:  The Trump Administration, Work Requirements, and Other Potential Reforms in Medicaid, which can be found here, on the Health Affairs Blog.

A New Wave of Medicaid Expansion?

Spurred by the Trump administration’s invitation to states to apply for approval to make work requirements a part of their Medicaid program, a number of states that spurned the opportunity created for expansion under the Affordable Care Act may consider pursuing Medicaid expansion in the near future.

Currently, some elected officials in Idaho, Kansas, North Carolina, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming appear to be considering what they once considered unthinkable:  making more of their residents eligible for Medicaid.

For the most part, expansion talk is coming from moderate Republican legislators who believe a work requirement may help soften the staunch opposition to Medicaid expansion among their more conservative Republican colleagues – and at this point it is all still just talk.

Ten states have already sought federal approval to establish a work requirement as part of their Medicaid programs and one state, Kentucky, has already had such a request approved.

Learn more about how a federal move to reduce the number of people on the nation’s Medicaid rolls may actually result in an increase in nation-wide Medicaid enrollment in this Washington Post story.