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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.

Administration Shares Regulatory Priorities for 2020

The Trump administration’s health care regulatory priorities for 2020 have been outlined by the Office of Management and Budget in a newly released “Statement of Regulatory Priorities for Fiscal Year 2020.”

The statement, an annual OMB document, organizes the priorities as follows:

  • Facilitating patient-centered markets
  • Fixing health care financing through protecting private insurance and Medicare
  • Fixing health care financing through reforming the individual market
  • Fixing health care financing through making the ACA and Medicaid fiscally sustainable
  • Bringing value to health care through price and quality transparency
  • Bringing value to health care through patient-centered health IT
  • Bringing value to health care through deregulation, especially for coordinated care
  • Bringing value to health care through tackling the high cost of prescription drugs
  • Bringing value to health care through accelerated drug and device approval and reimbursement
  1. Promoting health and protecting life
  • Addressing impactable health challenges: kidney health
  • Addressing impactable health challenges: combatting the opioid crisis
  • Protecting conscience and life at all stages
  • Reducing the disease and death associated with tobacco use
  1. Promoting independence
  • Returning TANF to promoting work, marriage and family
  • Supporting adoption
  • Empowering Americans to improve their nutrition
  • Promoting flexibility for states, grantees, and regulated entities

Learn more about the regulatory directions the administration intends to take for the rest of its 2020 fiscal year in the newly released “Statement of Regulatory Priorities for Fiscal Year 2020.”  Go here to see the complete list of regulations that the Department of Health and Human Services intends to pursue in FY 2020, including 55 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

 

Verma Hints at More Medicaid Changes, Deregulation

Stay tuned for more Medicaid changes, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator Seema Verma told a Las Vegas health care gathering last week.

CMS, she told her audience, will

…soon outline new opportunities for states to flip the Medicaid paradigm and free themselves from federal micromanagement.

While Verma offered few details, one idea clearly emerged:  there will be more deregulation.  She insisted, for example, that Medicaid work requirements are not dead.  While such requirements have run into trouble in the courts in recent months, she explained that CMS is developing new implementation guidelines to address some of the challenges states have faced when introducing such requirements and made it clear that CMS would continue to approve state requests to require their Medicaid population to work or engage in volunteer activities.

Because they care for more Medicaid patients than the typical hospital, private safety-net hospitals could be disproportionately affected by any changes in the Medicaid program.

Learn more about Verma’s remarks and the context in which they were offered in the Healthcare Dive article “CMS chief Verma teases more Medicaid deregulation.”

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.

 

CMS Seeks Help With Reducing Administrative and Regulatory Burdens

Reducing administrative and regulatory burdens is the subject of a new request for information issued last week by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

In the RFI, CMS explains that it is especially interested in “…innovative ideas that broaden perspectives on potential solutions to relieve burden and ways to improve”

  • reporting and documentation requirements
  • coding and documentation requirements for Medicare or Medicaid payment
  • prior authorization procedures
  • policies and requirements for rural providers, clinicians, and beneficiaries
  • policies and requirements for dually enrolled (Medicare and Medicaid) beneficiaries
  • beneficiary enrollment and eligibility determination
  • CMS processes for issuing regulations and policies

Comments are due to CMS by August 12.

For further information, see the CMS news release “CMS Seeks Public Input on Patients over Paperwork Initiative to Further Reduce Administrative, Regulatory Burden to Lower Healthcare Costs” or go here to see the RFI itself.

CMS Adopts Rule to Protect Medicaid Payments

A new Medicaid provider reassignment regulation eliminates the ability of states to divert any portion of Medicaid payments to third parties.

Such diversion was authorized, in a limited manner, in 2014, when CMS created an exception to the existing prohibition on the diversion of provider payments to third parties.  That exception involved diversion of payments to selected third parties, mostly in-home personal care workers, but in this new, final regulation, the agency eliminates this exception, maintaining that it is inconsistent with the Social Security Act.

Learn more about the new regulation in a CMS news release or see the new regulation itself.

Protections Overlooked as Medicaid Reforms are Implemented

In its eagerness to help states introduce changes in their Medicaid programs and reduce administrative burdens, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is ignoring regulatory requirements designed to understand and measure the impact of those changes on beneficiaries.

According to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times, many states seeking to implement Medicaid work requirements have not projected how many of their beneficiaries would be affected by those requirements nor have they projected how many beneficiaries who are removed from the Medicaid rolls will gain employment after losing their Medicaid benefits.  Both projections are required under Medicaid regulations adopted in 2012, which call for states to assess the anticipated impact of proposed policy changes when seeking federal permission to implement such changes.

Similarly, many states have not proposed commissioning independent assessments to determine the impact of the Medicaid changes they have implemented with CMS’s approval – another requirement under 2012 regulations.

When pressed to explain its failure to enforce these regulations, according to the Times, CMS said only that regulations “…do not require that states provide precise numerical estimates of coverage impacts…” and that it is developing strategies for states to evaluate the impact of new work requirements.  The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission wrote to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar about Medicaid disenrollment in states with new work requirements but after three months, Secretary Azar has not responded to MACPAC’s inquiry.

Medicaid disenrollment is a particular challenge for private safety-net hospitals because they serve more Medicaid patients than most hospitals and patients who lose their Medicaid coverage and need hospital care typically cannot afford to pay for that care, leaving such hospitals with growing amounts of uncompensated care.

Learn more about the process for reviewing state requests to implement Medicaid work requirements and CMS’s enforcement of regulations governing its approval of such requirements in the Los Angeles Times article “In rush to revamp Medicaid, Trump officials bend rules that protect patients.”

 

CMS Proposes New Medicaid Managed Care Regulation

Just two years after a major overhaul of Medicaid managed care regulations, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is again proposing changes in how the federal government regulates the delivery of managed care services to Medicaid beneficiaries.

Under the newly proposed regulation, states would:

  • be free to implement more changes in their managed care programs without seeking federal permission;
  • have slightly more flexibility in how supplemental payments are made to hospitals through managed care plans and implement some such changes without federal approval;
  • be permitted to redefine what constitutes an adequate provider network for managed care plans; and
  • not be required to publicize beneficiary grievance and appeals processes as prominently as they currently do.

Overall, the proposed regulation appears to help managed care insurers a great deal, states a little, and hospitals barely at all.  It also could have serious implications for private safety-net hospitals, most of which are located in states that employ managed care in their Medicaid programs.

Stakeholders have until January 14 to submit formal comments about the proposal to CMS.

To learn more about the proposed Medicaid managed care regulation, go here to see CMS’s news release presenting the regulation, go here to see a more detailed CMS fact sheet, and go here to see the proposed regulation itself.

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.

 

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.