HHS Staff To Help States Reduce Medicaid Costs, Retain Coverage Levels
Over the next few months, HHS will dispatch agency personnel to help states reduce Medicaid costs without dropping coverage for beneficiaries, as well as prepare for the program's scheduled expansion under the federal health reform law, Kaiser Health News/Washington Post reports (Werber Serafini, Kaiser Health News/Washington Post, 2/22).
In early January, 33 Republican governors and governors-elect urged the Obama administration and Congress to eliminate a provision in the overhaul -- which stipulates that states risk losing federal matching funds if they scale back Medicaid eligibility criteria to cut enrollment -- before the expansion is set to begin in 2014.
Federal funds account for almost half of states' Medicaid budgets. Under the health reform law, states cannot change their Medicaid eligibility rules until they have a health insurance exchange in place (California Healthline, 1/7).
Earlier this month, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius responded to the governors with suggestions for ways to reduce Medicaid costs, such as by cutting certain benefits, limiting overuse of costly prescription drugs and eliminating fraud (California Healthline, 2/4).
Sebelius last week also responded to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's (R) request for a formal federal waiver to proceed with a plan to drop 250,000 childless adults from Arizona's Medicaid program, noting that the state in 2000 had expanded its program to that population with a special time-limited waiver that expires in September (California Healthline, 2/17).
New HHS Outreach
As part of HHS's efforts, agency staffers are scheduled to visit several states to meet to provide officials with on-site assistance.
Paul Dioguardi, director of intergovernmental affairs at HHS, said Delaware and New York are among the first scheduled visits. He added that some states are seeking help on how to better coordinate the care they offer to individuals who are enrolled in both Medicaid and Medicare (Kaiser Health News/Washington Post, 2/22).
Meanwhile, two states -- Connecticut and Minnesota -- and the District of Columbia, have been permitted by the federal government to expand their Medicaid programs, a move that will result in higher federal matching funds (Pecquet, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 2/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.