Not Surprisingly, Higher Medicaid Rates Improve Access

Higher Medicaid payments for substance abuse disorder treatment lead to better access to such treatment, a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office has concluded.

According to the study, which focused on six states,

State officials and SUD [substance abuse disorders] providers in the selected states with larger rate changes reported greater effects on SUD service availability compared to those in states with smaller changes. For example, state officials said that larger rate increases helped increase the number of SUD providers participating in Medicaid, but did not generally note SUD service availability effects for smaller rate increases.  Providers in selected states identified certain factors, such as Medicaid program requirements, that could affect how much the availability of SUD services increased or decreased following rate changes.

The communities served by private safety-net hospitals often have larger numbers of residents with substance abuse disorders than most communities, making this a major challenge for such hospitals.

Learn more about how Medicaid rates affect access to substance abuse disorder services in the new GAO report Medicaid:  States’ Changes to Payment Rates for Substance Use Disorder Services.


Behavioral Health Services in Medicaid Expansion States

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has performed a limited study of the utilization of Medicaid behavioral health services in Medicaid expansion states.

The study, based on data from New York, Washington, Iowa, and West Virginia, found that the two most heavily utilized behavioral health services were diagnostic and psychotherapy services and that more than two-thirds of behavioral health patients were prescribed anti-depressants.  More people sought help for mental health challenges that for substance abuse problems.

Medicaid officials in the selected states concluded that enrollment in Medicaid enhanced access to behavioral health care.

Learn more about the study’s findings in the GAO report Medicaid Expansion:  Behavioral Health Treatment Use in Selected States in 2014, which can be found here.

GAO Reports on CHIP Extension

As a House-approved bill that would extend authorization for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for two years awaits Senate consideration, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a mandated evaluation of the program.

Among the GAO’s findings, it concluded that children enrolled in the program

… (1) had substantially better access to care, service use, and preventive care when compared with uninsured children; and (2) experienced comparable access and service use when compared with privately insured children.

gaoIt also found that nearly all children between the age of one and two enrolled in CHIP or Medicaid made at least one visit to a primary care physician in 2013; that the program’s costs for families were almost always less than states’ benchmark plans established under the Affordable Care Act; and that its benefits were generally comparable to those offered by benchmark plans.

For a closer look at the GAO report Children’s Health Insurance Program: Effects on Coverage and Access, and Considerations for Extending Fund, find links to a summary and the full report here, on the GAO web site.