This week CMS continued its rapid response—average approval takes less than a week—to review and approve Social Security Act Section 1115(c) Appendix K and Section 1135 waivers to facilitate state Medicaid programs’ efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic. CMS approved waiver applications from Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts,
New York State is now considered the nation’s epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, far surpassing all other states in confirmed COVID-19 cases. Managed long-term care plans (“MLTCPs”) and other Medicaid managed care organizations (“MCOs”) are facing unprecedented financial and other challenges addressing the care needs of their members as COVID-19 continues to ravage more and more New Yorkers. Earlier this week, the New York State Department of Health (“DOH”) acted to secure regulatory relief from the federal government for MLTCPs and MCOs as well as Programs of All-Inclusive Care to the Elderly (“PACE”) Organizations from the growing financial stress brought about by the coronavirus outbreak.
In recognition of the challenges faced by health care providers and payors alike, on March 13, 2020, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, invoking Section 1135 of the Social Security Act authorized the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) to waive application of certain federal laws to ensure that sufficient health care items and services are available to meet the needs of Medicaid patients and plan members during the coronavirus public health emergency. On March 23, 2020, DOH requested additional waivers from federal regulations under Section 1135 that impact among others, MCOs and MLTCPs, including:
On March 23, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved Section 1135 waiver requests submitted by the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) as part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The waiver requests were submitted by DHCS on March 16 and March 19, 2020.
As discussed in a previous blog post, Section 1135 authorizes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to waive federal Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program requirements in order to respond to a public health or national emergency. As of March 24, CMS had approved Section 1135 waivers related to the COVID-19 pandemic from 13 different states.
With the approval granted by CMS, DHCS is permitted to take the following actions in regards to its Medicaid program (Medi-Cal), effective retroactively to March 1 and to extend until the end of the public health emergency:
Many states are looking to adapt their Medicaid programs to address new challenges related to COVID-19, including by increasing coverage and protection for Medicaid enrollees. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued guidance on the types of measures that states can take to change their Medicaid programs.
In an FAQ addressed to state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program agencies, CMS addressed questions from states, saying that states may have flexibility to cover telehealth services, accelerate or relax prior authorization requirements, expand provider networks, extend Medicaid eligibility, and suspend copayments, although some of these measures may require CMS’ waiver of federal requirements or approval of changes to the state Medicaid plan.
On March 22, CMS released checklists and tools that guide Medicaid programs through the processes of seeking expedited approval of such changes and waivers, including section 1115 demonstration waivers, section 1135 waivers, Appendix K of section 1915(c) home and community-based services waivers, and disaster amendments to the state plan. In the associated press release, the Trump Administration indicated that the tools could be used by states to “access emergency administrative relief, make temporary modifications to Medicaid eligibility and benefit requirements, relax rules to ensure that individuals with disabilities and the elderly can be effectively served in their homes, and modify payment rules to support health care providers impacted by the outbreak.” CMS is providing states the options to request waivers effective retroactively to March 1.
On January 31, 2020, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared COVID-19 a public health emergency under Public Health Service Act Section 319. Subsequently, on March 13, 2020, President Trump declared COVID-19 a national emergency under Sections 201 and 301 of the National Emergencies Act. Doing so empowered Sec.…
In early February, two federal bills targeting surprise billing in healthcare advanced out of committee. On February 11, the House Education and Labor Committee passed the Ban Surprise Billing Act (H.R. 5800), which was introduced by Chairman Rep. Bobby Scott (D. – Virginia) and Ranking Member Rep. Virginia Foxx (R. – North Carolina). One day later, the House Ways and Means Committee unanimously advanced the Consumer Protections Against Surprise Medical Bills Act (H.R. 5826), led by Chairman Rep. Richard Neal (D. – Massachusetts) and Ranking Member Rep. Kevin Brady (R. – Texas). Both bills would prohibit providers from balance billing patients for surprise medical bills and would limit patients’ cost-sharing to in-network amounts. The two competing bills must be reconciled before the full House can vote on the issue. Leaders hope to include the final product in a spending bill that must pass Congress by May 22.
Similar scopes of coverage
The competing bills are substantively similar in several ways. Each bill applies to out-of-network emergency claims, to post-stabilization inpatient services provided to patients who are admitted to the hospital through the emergency room, and to non-emergency services provided at in-network facilities by out-of-network providers. The Ban Surprise Billing Act also covers air ambulance services. Additionally, both bills apply to all individual and group health plans (both fully- and self-insured) in the group and individual markets, but do not apply to federal programs such as Medicaid or the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. The Ban Surprise Billing Act also extends to grandfathered health plans.
On December 31, 2019, in New Mexico Health Connections v. U.S. Dep’t of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit upheld the methodology adopted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) to administer the Risk Adjustment Program under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”). In doing…
In a victory for the Trump Administration, on July 18, 2019, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia upheld a 2018 regulation designed to expand the sale of short-term, limited duration insurance policies and rejected claims that the regulation unlawfully undermined the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) and would destabilize the ACA marketplaces. Plaintiffs have indicated that they will appeal the decision.
Short-term, limited duration insurance policies are not required to comply with ACA protections, including those relating to essential health benefits like maternity care and prescription drugs. Originally designed to fill very short gaps in coverage, these types of plans were not included in the definition of individual health insurance under the ACA. These short term policies can be designed with high out-of-pocket maximums, low coverage caps, and significant benefit gaps. They can also deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions. For these reasons, these policies can be marketed at a lower cost. Plaintiffs representing insurers, providers, and consumer groups sued the administration arguing that the availability of short term plans would draw away younger and healthier individuals from risk pools and put insurers at an unfair disadvantage by forcing them to compete with short term plans that would not be required to comply with the same ACA protections.
Nearly 20,000 comments have been submitted in response to the Department of Health and Human Services January 31, 2019 notice of proposed rulemaking eliminating discount safe harbor protection for reductions in price to prescription pharmaceutical products (or rebates) provided by manufacturers to plan sponsors under Medicare Part D and Medicaid managed care organizations (MCOs), whether negotiated by the plan or by pharmacy benefit managers (PBM) or paid through a PBM to the plan or Medicaid MCO. Most of the comments appear to be relatively short, text box comments submitted by individuals through patient or business advocacy groups. The following is a very high level summary of the several hundred comments posted (so far) from health plans, manufacturers, pharmacies, their respective associations, and policy oriented groups:…