An Update From the States

An Update from the States

In an ongoing effort to keep you up to date on the many proposed and approved changes to our health care system and how they might impact the cancer community, this week, we bring you updates from around the country. If you don’t live in one of these states, be aware, these changes could come to your state next. 

Medicaid News:

Do you have Medicaid coverage? You can now access the services included in Amazon Prime for a discounted fee of $5.99 a month, less than half the regular cost of $12.99 a month. Access to Prime services, including free expedited shipping, can be particularly useful for someone who is treatment. Instead of having to go grocery shopping or running other errands for household items, Amazon Prime can deliver those items to your doorstep for free. Amazon also now offers electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards, which are used for food stamp benefits.

Other National News:

In the recent Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, passed by Congress on February 9th, there were several changes made to our health care system that may be helpful and challenging for the cancer community:

  1. It provided two additional years of funding to State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIP) and Area Agencies on Aging, which are two valuable resources that help seniors manage their Medicare coverage and get access to other programs and services.
  2. It eliminated the Medicare cap on access to outpatient physical, occupational, and speech therapy services as of January 1, 2018.
  3. It closed the Medicare Part D donut hole one year earlier in 2019, lowering the cost of prescription drugs for people with Medicare.
  4. It also changed the way that Medicare pays for home health services beginning in 2020. The home health coverage will be reduced from 60 days to 30 days and therapy thresholds will be eliminated. Beginning in 2019, Medicare will be allowed to base eligibility for home health services on a review of a patient’s medical record, including a home health agency’s record.

Hawaii:

The Hawaii House has approved a bill that would allow physicians to prescribe life-ending medication to terminally ill patients. The bill now moves to the Senate, which approved a similar bill laws year. If approved, Hawaii would join California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia, which have death with dignity laws. Click here for more information about state laws.

Idaho:

A few weeks ago we shared that the Idaho Governor announced that he will allow insurance companies to sell plans in violation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA required health insurance plans to meet certain minimum requirements in order to protect consumers from pre-existing condition exclusions and annual and lifetime limits, while ensuring coverage of essential health benefits.

This past week, the Trump Administration did reject Idaho’s plan to sell plans in violation of the ACA.  Many other states had been closely watching this decision, as they also were looking at allowing plans without the ACA consumer protections. The cancer advocacy community was pleased to see that these consumer protections wouldn’t be ignored. However, the Administration did suggest to Idaho that they instead promote the sale of short-term insurance plans. Click here for more information on these plans.

Iowa:

The Iowa Senate voted last week to let the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield sell health insurance plans that don’t comply with the ACA, allowing people with pre-existing conditions to be denied or charged more for coverage.  Given the Administration’s rejection of Idaho’s plans, it is likely that Iowa will not be able to move forward with the sale of these plans.

Arkansas:

There was a question as to whether or not Arkansas’ legislature was going to keep their expanded Medicaid program. However, lawmakers did vote to keep the program that covers 285,000 people in Arkansas another year.

In addition, the Trump Administration has approved Arkansas’ request to add a work requirement to their Medicaid program, joining Indiana and Kentucky as states that have added this new requirement. There are seven other states that have submitted applications for a Medicaid work requirement and 14 other states that are considering it.

Stay tuned for the latest news  . . .

How States are Changing Health Insurance Rules

In an ongoing effort to keep you up to date on the many proposed and approvedhealth insurance
changes to our health care system and how they might impact the cancer community, this week, we bring you updates from around the country. If you don’t live in one of these states, be aware, these changes could come to your state next.

National News:

Two weeks ago, we reported that 11 states have applied for waivers to make some individuals work, in order to get access to health care through Medicaid. Since then, Kentucky and Indiana’s waivers have already been approved by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and those states are moving forward with implementing plans for a Medicaid work requirement. Click here to learn more about the impact of the Medicaid waivers and to see what the states are asking for in their waivers.

In addition to work requirements, five states have also asked the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services if they can place a lifetime cap on how long an individual can receive Medicaid coverage. For example, Arizona, would like to place a 5-year lifetime cap on coverage. Kansas, Utah, Maine and Wisconsin are also seeking to impose lifetime caps.

This would be a substantial change to the Medicaid program, since signed into law under President Truman in 1965.  More than 68 million people receive Medicaid coverage, including children, seniors, and people with disabilities.  HHS has not released any guidance on this issue, to date.

Ohio:

Ohio has now joined Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi (still in process), New Hampshire, North Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin, in asking for permission to add a work requirement to their Medicaid program. The work requirement would begin July 1, 2018, if approved in time.

Ohio has also asked the federal government for permission to not comply with the individual mandate. This will likely have no actual impact, as Congress reduced the penalty for not purchasing health insurance to $0, in the latest tax bill. The $0 penalty will begin in 2019, which means that those who don’t have health insurance in 2018 will still be responsible for the penalty!

Rhode Island:

Rhode Island is also making cuts to its Medicaid program, which covers more than 300,000 people. Individuals will be required to pay co-pays when receiving health care services or prescription drugs.  However, there will be an annual cap on co-pays equal to 6% of an individual’s income.

Idaho:

Idaho announced last week that they will allow insurance companies to sell plans in violation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA required health insurance plans to meet certain minimum requirements in order to protect consumers from pre-existing condition exclusions and annual and lifetime limits, while ensuring coverage of essential health benefits. Insurers argue that providing this quality coverage is more expensive and that is why plans sold in the Health Insurance Marketplace can be more expensive.

Idaho’s approach to bring down the cost of insurance is to allow plans to offer less coverage and to exclude people with pre-existing conditions. This directly violate the law. It will be up to HHS to enforce the law or allow Idaho to continue offering these illegal plans. There are many other states waiting to see how HHS will react.

Blue Cross of Idaho has already unveiled five new plans that don’t comply with the ACA, including having annual caps on coverage and pre-existing condition exclusions for up to 12 months.

Advocates have three concerns about this approach:

  1. People who are healthier will leave the Marketplace to buy these cheaper plans, which will drive up the costs of plans in the Marketplace
  2. If these healthier individuals are diagnosed with serious medical conditions, they will find they have inadequate coverage
  3. People with pre-existing conditions won’t be able to purchase these cheaper plans, which means they will be stuck in the marketplace with more expensive plans

This turn of events is very concerning for the cancer community, as it allows insurance companies to do an end run around the ACAs protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Medicaid Work Requirements & the Cancer Community

There has been discussion in the news over the last few weeks about the President’s decision to allow states to require that people “work” in order to receive Medicaid. This is referred to as the Medicaid work requirement. We want to break down these changes for you and how this might impact the cancer community.

If you live in one of the states that is about to make changes to its Medicaid program, you should definitely keep reading.

What is Medicaid?

Medicaid is the federal health insurance program that covers more than 74 million individuals who have a low income, low resources, and meet some other category of eligibility, such as being a senior, a minor child, or having a disability (receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI)). In 2014, the Affordable Care Act expanded access to Medicaid to all adults with an income level up to 138% of the federal poverty level ($16,753 for an individual in 2018).  Eliminating the low resource requirement and the requirement to be receiving Supplemental Security Income, made it much easier for someone with a cancer diagnosis to get access to Medicaid coverage, and ultimately get access to care.

While Medicaid is a federal program, it is administered by both the federal government and states. Since 2014, 32 states have expanded access to their Medicaid program under the ACA.

There is a lot of discussion about the number of people who receive Medicaid, but don’t work, and whether or not that is fair. Those who are in favor of work requirements for Medicaid believe that “able-bodied” adults should be working if the federal government is going to pay for their health insurance coverage.

Those who are opposed to work requirements are concerned how they might impact people who are unable to work for a variety of reasons or who live in communities where work is difficult to find. Advocates are concerned that the additional administrative requirements will cause people to lose vital coverage, that people will be discouraged from applying for coverage, and that the number of uninsured people will start to rise again.  One of the many benefits of lower numbers of uninsured individuals was that it decreases the amount of uncompensated care that hospitals provide. When hospitals have high levels of uncompensated care, they are more likely to close, which impacts access to care for everyone.

Who Receives Medicaid?

According to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, most Medicaid and CHIP enrollees would be actually be automatically exempt from the requirement because of their age or disability status.

Medicaid Work Requirements & the Cancer Community

What are the New Medicaid Rules?

In January, the Trump Administration announced its decision to make significant changes to the Medicaid program, by allowing states to apply for waivers to impose work requirements on Medicaid enrollees in their state. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released rules for the states who want to apply for those waivers.

The rules forbids states from imposing work requirements on certain populations, such as the elderly, minor children, individuals who are pregnant, and those receiving SSI.

CMS also requires states to exempt individuals who are “medically-frail.” CMS defines “medically frail” as those who have “disabling mental disorders; chronic substance abuse disorders; serious and complex medical conditions; physical, intellectual, or developmental disabilities that significantly impact the ability to perform one or more activities of daily living; and those who meet Social Security disability criteria.”

While CMS does remind states to consider how some communities have high unemployment rates due to economic factors, it gives states significant flexibility to design their own requirements. CMS also suggested that states could allow for “community engagement” alternatives to work, such as job search, job training, volunteering, community service, or education.

Work requirements are likely to have an impact on everyone receiving Medicaid in a particular state, because everyone will have to document that they meet the requirements. And, the CMS rules allow for states to ask enrollees to certify they are still eligible as often as monthly.

Which States Want Medicaid Work Requirements?

These eleven states have already applied for waivers to add work requirements: Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi (still in process), New Hampshire, North Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin.  Additional states are considering submitting requests.

Medicaid Work Requirements

Since the CMS announcement, Kentucky and Indiana’s waivers have already been approved and those states are moving forward with implementing plans for a Medicaid work requirement.

Click here to learn more about the impact of the Medicaid waivers and to see what the states are asking for in their waivers.

What is in Kentucky’s Waiver?

Kentucky’s waiver requires people to work 80 hours a month, or alternatively to engage in job searching, job training, community service, or education. Drug treatment and caregiving for a non-dependent relative or another person with a disabling medical condition are also considered work activities.

Kentucky Medicaid enrollees can obtain an exception to the work requirement if they can verify one of the following during their month of noncompliance with the work requirement:

  • Disability, hospitalization, or serious illness of enrollee or immediate family member in the home;
  • Birth or death of a family member living with the enrollee;
  • Severe inclement weather including natural disaster; or
  • Family emergency or other life-changing event such as divorce or domestic violence.

A primary caregiver of a dependent minor child or adult with disabilities per household is also exempt.

In addition to the medicaid work requirements, the waiver also establishes premiums, deductibles, benefit restrictions, and six-month coverage lock-outs, while eliminating non-emergency medical transportation.

Also included in Kentucky’s waiver is the elimination of the 3-month retroactive coverage for most adults, including those who are medically frail. This was very useful for someone diagnosed with cancer, so that they could start receiving care while their Medicaid application was being processed.

To read a breakdown of Kentucky’s waiver, click here. These changes are set to begin being phased in on April 1, 2018.

However, advocacy groups in Kentucky have filed a lawsuit to stop the implementation of Kentucky’s waiver. Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin has signed an executive order stating that if the court does stop the work requirements, that the Governor will eliminate the expanded access to Medicaid in Kentucky entirely. This would result in 48,000 people in Kentucky losing access to their health insurance coverage.

What is in Indiana’s Waiver?

Indiana’s waiver was approved on February 2, and requires adult enrollees to work an average of 20 hours a month and it is phased in over time. It also has a long list of exemptions and alternatives to employment. In addition to the work requirement, Indiana will also implement a “lockout” provision.  Medicaid enrollees who fail to submit their paperwork showing that they still qualify for the program, will be blocked from coverage for three months. Click here to read Indiana’s Medicaid waiver.

More Information

Triage Cancer will continue to follow the changes to state programs and how those changes might impact the cancer community and share that information on our blog.  Stay tuned.

Happy Birthday to Medicare & Medicaid!

50th Medi BdayOn July 30, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicaid and Medicare into law at a ceremony in Independence, Missouri. Congress passed the Social Security Amendments of 1965, after three previous Presidents had fought for the creation of a national health plan.

Former President Truman was issued the very first Medicare card during the signing ceremony. 19 million Americans signed up for Medicare during its first year.

At the time, these two federal programs were a groundbreaking way to provide basic insurance options for Americans without health insurance.

Medicare is the federal health insurance program that covers eligible people who:

  • Are 65 years are older;
  • Have been receiving Social Security disability benefits for 2 years; or
  • Have end-stage renal disease (ESRD) or ALS.

Medicaid is the federal health insurance program that covers people who have low-incomes and meet certain categories of eligibility. Medicaid eligibility varies by state.

Over the years, these government health insurance programs have continued to change, covering more Americans and providing additional benefits.

  • For example, in 1972, President Nixon expanded the coverage of Medicare to people under the age of 65 with long-term disabilities and individuals with
  • In 2003, President George W. Bush signed the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act, which created Medicare prescription drug coverage.
  • And in 2010, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which expanded Medicare to cover free preventive and wellness services and improve prescription drug coverage.
  • Click here to view a video about the history of Medicare.

Today, nearly 50 million Americans receive health insurance coverage through Medicare alone.

Nearly 70 million Americans receive health insurance coverage through Medicaid.

To learn more about Medicare, visit www.Medicare.gov or read www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10043.pdf. Each year, Medicare also releases Medicare & You, which includes details about Medicare, including costs, benefits, and how to find plans in your area.

To learn more about Medicaid, visit www.healthcare.gov/medicaid-chip. For more in depth information about Medicaid, visit http://kff.org/health-reform/issue-brief/medicaid-moving-forward.

Yesterday, Medicare and Medicaid celebrated their 50th birthday. As our health care system and health insurance options continue to evolve over time, it is important to keep perspective and remember that when Medicare and Medicaid were first introduced, they were not welcomed by many people. But today, they are well-established ways for Americans to get access to health care.

View this video about the history of Medicare & Medicaid.

MediMedi Birthday

Medicaid Expanding in 2014…For Some

Medicaid Image

By Ashley Toro, Triage Cancer Intern

In the last two weeks, much of the country has had its attention on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (otherwise known as Obamacare).  One of the changes under the ACA is an expansion of Medicaid starting on January 1, 2014.  Although Medicaid programs vary from state to state, Medicaid provides health coverage for certain low-income individuals, families with children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with disabilities.  Currently, Medicaid is the largest source of funding for health services for low-income individuals in the U.S.

A huge gap in the current Medicaid program is that it does not cover childless, low-income individuals because having a low-income alone does not necessarily qualify someone for Medicaid.  Under the ACA, many states are expanding their Medicaid coverage.  States participating in the Medicaid expansion will allow individuals with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level to qualify for coverage.

Although the ACA sought to make this expansion mandatory for all states, the 2012 Supreme Court decision made the expansion voluntary and many states are opting not to expand their Medicaid programs.  Additionally, some states are pursuing other ways to expand coverage.  Debates over whether to adopt the expansion are still ongoing in many states.  One of the main goals of the ACA is to provide affordable access to health care for all.  However, states choosing not to expand Medicaid will continue to have a gap in coverage for childless, low-income adults.  Practically speaking, this means that those individuals will continue to lack access to basic health and preventative care.

Since eligibility will now vary from state to state, it is imperative for those needing coverage to find out whether their state will move forward with Medicaid expansion in 2014.  Although where states stand seems to be constantly changing, we here at Triage Cancer have tried to create a chart to keep track of where states stand on the expansion.  You can find it on our resources page or by clicking here.  You can also get more information on what to do if your state is not expanding here.

If you live in a state that is choosing not to expand its Medicaid program, and you are concerned about that, consider contacting your elected officials and letting them know.  Triage Cancer has some simple legislative advocacy tools available here.

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