Expiration of federal funding threatens state CHIP programs

In light of the fact that federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expired on September 30, 2017, the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) analyzed the impact upon states and potential outcomes. Without an extension of federal funding for CHIP, KFF reported that states have or will run out of federal CHIP funding and may face budget shortfalls for CHIP, which covered 8.9 million children in 2016.

According to KFF under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148) the enhanced federal funding matching rate was further increased by 23 percent. With this, the CHIP federal matching rate ranged from 88 percent to 100 percent. Because nearly all the states included federal funding for CHIP when creating their FY 2018 state budgets, nearly all the states will face a budget shortfall if the federal funding is not extended.

In the absence of an extension of federal funding for CHIP, some states will have to reduce CHIP coverage. States that have CHIP-funded Medicaid expansions must maintain the underage under the ACA “maintenance of effort” requirement, leaving state costs to increase in the face of lower federal Medicaid match rate. However, states with separate CHIP coverage are not required to maintain it, and states may freeze enrollment or discontinue CHIP coverage altogether.

In the short run, states can continue to use federal funding accrued through the September 30 expiration. Eleven states reported that they would run out of federal funding for CHIP by the end of FY 2017, and at least one state reported that their funding would be depleted at the expiration date. By redistribution of unspent CHIP funds, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) was able to provide enough additional funding to allow that state to maintain coverage without a budget shortfall through October. CMS was also able to provide redistributed funds to several other states that were close to running out of funds.

In order to address the expected states’ budget shortfalls, Congress is working on legislation for continued funding. Both the Senate and the House have reported bills out of committee to provide an extension of federal funding for CHIP. The bills from the House and Senate contain many of the same provisions, including a five-year extension for federal funding of CHIP and a transition down from the enhanced 23 percent match provided by the ACA. However, the House bill includes some additional provisions not included in the Senate bill. Both bills still need to be debated and voted upon by the full House and Senate, and if both are passed, Congress will have to reconcile the difference between the two bills.

Highlight on Maine: Able-bodied MaineCare recipients could be subject to more stringent requirements

“Able-bodied adults” would be subject to work/education requirements and a lifetime limit of five years under changes Mary Mayhew, director of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, proposed to Maine’s Medicaid program, MaineCare. In a letter to HHS Secretary Tom Price, Mayhew said she would be seeking the changes in a forthcoming formal 1115 demonstration waiver request.

Mayhew’s letter comes at the heels of a referendum campaign to expand Medicaid in Maine at, according to Mayhew, a cost of $400 million over the next five years. A second motivation is the apparently sympathetic Trump Administration, which has proposed replacing Medicaid with block grants.

Mayhew said that the state has expanded its Medicaid program over decades, resulting in the use of hundreds of millions of state dollars “to turn Medicaid into an entitlement program for working-age, able-bodied adults.” MaineCare serves 270,000 individuals, just over 20 percent of Maine’s population, which, Mayhew said, represents a 22 percent reduction in enrollment since 2011.

Mayhew’s Medicaid proposals include the following:

  • work or education requirements for able-bodied adults in the Medicaid program, similar to the work requirements for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP);
  • a five-year lifetime limitation on able-bodied adults’ eligibility for Medicaid;
  • limiting non-emergency transportation (NET) to situations where the underlying service to or from which individuals are being transported is a required Medicaid service and requiring them to access existing transportation resources before accessing NET;
  • requiring monthly premiums for adults who are able to earn income;
  • requiring monthly coinsurance of a set amount (approximately $20) for all members, cost-sharing of $20 for using the emergency department, and fees for missed appointments;
  • applying a reasonable asset test to Medicaid; and
  • waiver of the retroactive coverage of services incurred during the 90 days before Medicaid eligibility.

 

Highlight on Illinois: Exchange rates rise in the Land of Lincoln

Illinois residents purchasing individual health insurance plans through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care (ACA) (P.L. 111-148) could pay rate increases in 2017 as high as 55 percent, according to rate information released by the Illinois Department of Insurance (DOI). The agency submitted rate increases to the federal government ranging from 43 percent to 55 percent, depending on the type of plan—bronze, silver, gold.

Filings

The submitted rates are not final. Although the DOI has submitted the 2017 rate filings to CMS, the rates will not be finalized by federal CMS until October, 2016. Additionally, network and premium information will not be available until that time. The DOI announced that the rate information was published as early as possible to allow Illinois families to make better-informed decisions regarding health care coverage. The DOI acknowledged the rate increases as “a very difficult outcome for consumers.”

Rates

The average rate increase across all ratings areas for the lowest bronze plan is 44 percent. The rate change is lowest in Kane, Du Page, Will, and Kankakee counties, where the rate change is a 10 to 25 percent increase. Counties like Lake and Cook have a 40 to 60 percent increase, whereas counties including La Salle and McLean have a 20 to 40 percent increase for their lowest bronze plans.

The average rate increase across all ratings areas for the lowest silver plan is 45 percent. Counties like Cook and Kendall saw a 40 to 60 percent increase, whereas counties like Du Page, Sangamon, and McLean saw increases of 25 to 40 percent. The average rate increase across all ratings areas for the second lowest silver plan is 43 percent.

The highest average rate increase across all ratings areas is for the lowest gold plan—an increase of 55 percent. Although several counties do not have gold plan offerings, rate increases in some counties, including Peoria County, are as high as 60 to 70 percent. Rate increases for the lowest gold plan in counties like Cook, McLean and Sangamon are 40 to 60 percent.

In practical application, the new rates mean that a 21-year-old nonsmoker who purchases the lowest-priced silver plan in Cook County in 2017 could pay a premium of $221.13 a month—an increase from $152.42 a month in 2016. In Lake and McHenry counties the increases are more dramatic for the same consumer, $268.03 a month in 2017, up from $212.23 a month. However, for some, the rate increase is not as massive as it seems because 75 percent of Illinois exchange enrollees receive tax credits to offset premium costs.

Cause

The DOI attributed the rate increases to several factors, including the federal government’s failure to make payments to insurers promised as part of the ACA and an overall increase in medical and pharmaceutical costs. Additionally, the DOI pointed to the fact that, until 2017, policyholders are permitted to keep non-ACA compliant plans, a factor that the DOI said has harmed insurers’ risk pools and placed upward pressure on plan costs.

Highlight on New Jersey: OMNIA plan tiers and fears

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is trying to change the commercial health care market in New Jersey with a product called the OMNIA Health Plan. With a tiered provider network model, Horizon plans to use the OMNIA plan to reward patients who choose top-tier providers with cheaper deductibles and copays. In large part due to the manner in which Horizon has selected which providers belong to which tiers, smaller (lower-tiered) providers are objecting to the plan, noting that it will drive smaller providers and competition out of the industry.

Tiers

The plan relies upon a two-tiered provider model. The highest tier—Tier 1—includes 34 hospitals and the state’s biggest health care changes. Tier 2 is comprised of smaller providers, free-standing, and Roman Catholic providers. While members of the OMNIA plan can select either type of provider, subscribers who go to a Tier 1 facility are rewarded with lower copays and deductibles. Horizon’s tiered-approach is saving on costs and, as a result, the OMNIA plan is 15 percent cheaper than Horizon’s traditional plans.

Challenges

Although the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance agreed in September 2015, to allow the OMNIA plan to launch in November 2016, Horizon is feeling pressure from lawmakers and providers. Lawmakers announced concerns that the plan was being rushed and was not adequately vetted. Additionally 17 of the Tier 2 hospitals sued the state banking regulators in November 2015, to block the plan. The Tier 2 hospitals alleged that the Department of Banking and Insurance approved the plan before making sure OMNIA met state requirements. Subsequently, additional hospitals sued Horizon, alleging that the insurer breached in-network provider contracts by moving hospitals to lower tiers without adequate notice.

Status

As of March 2016, an internal investigation by the New Jersey attorney general concluded that Horizon broke no state laws in creating OMNIA. Additionally, 234,000 people enrolled in OMNIA. Many of OMNIA’s enrollees—41,000—were previously uninsured.

Additional opposition

In addition to provider and lawmaker opposition, physician organizations have joined the battle against Horizon’s OMNIA. Physicians are objecting to the way Horizon requires that physicians—under threat of penalty—explain to patients that they can save money by using Tier 1 providers. If physicians do not explain the cost sharing benefits of the network to patients, physicians risk being terminated from Horizon’s Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey networks. One physician group, The Medical Society of New Jersey, filed an amicus brief in support of the 17 Tier 2 hospitals challenging the Department of Banking and Insurance decision to approve the OMNIA plan.

Transparency

A key issue in the OMNIA litigation is transparency surrounding the formula used to develop the two-tiered system. While the plaintiffs’ attorneys have seen the formula, the insurer’s method remains cloaked behind protective court orders. Horizon argues that the formula behind OMNIA is proprietary and essential to the insurer’s competitive advantage. Although the formula has not been made public, opponents have obtained some favorable court treatment. For example, a state court ruled that Horizon had to disclose a financial impact analysis the insurer conducted on the effects that the OMNIA plan will have on Tier 2 hospitals.