HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday said Medicaid may soon allow hospitals and health systems to directly pay for housing, healthy food or other solutions for the “whole person.”
In a speech supported by the Hatch Foundation for Civility and Solutions and Intermountain Healthcare in Washington, Azar said Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation officials are looking to move beyond existing efforts to partner with social services groups and try to manage social determinants of health as they see appropriate.
“What if we gave organizations more flexibility so they could pay a beneficiary’s rent if they were in unstable housing, or make sure that a diabetic had access to, and could afford, nutritious food?” Azar said in his prepared remarks. “If that sounds like an exciting idea … I want you to stay tuned to what CMMI is up to.”
CMS is seeking comments on an interim final rule that increases payments to suppliers for some DME and enteral nutrition in areas of the country that are not subject to the Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Supplies (DEMPOS) Competitive Bidding Process (CBP). These include rural areas, and Alaska, Hawaii and the territories. From June 1 through December 31, 2018, payments will return to the blended rates that were in effect in 2016.
The change is in response to stakeholder concerns about significant financial challenges created by the current rates for suppliers, as well as concerns that the number of suppliers in certain areas continues to decline. It is projected to result in a $70 million dollar Medicare cost-sharing increase to beneficiaries. This increase may be covered by supplemental insurance programs like Medigap, and for dual eligible beneficiaries, Medicaid pays the cost sharing. However, beneficiaries who do not have supplemental insurance or who are not dual eligible will have increased cost sharing.
For some lower-income Americans, Medicaid is their lifeline to health care. That includes “older nonelderly” adults from 50 to 64 – an age range when chronic health conditions and mobility issues are common. Other people use Medicaid benefits so they can serve as family caregivers.
On Jan. 11, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced that states can apply for waivers to implement work requirements for people who receive Medicaid benefits. Some older Americans will be affected.
To date, waivers have been approved in three states and are pending approval in others. Age limits vary for who might have to fulfill work or “community engagement” requirements for up to 80 hours a month. In Kentucky, Medicaid recipients are exempt at 64. In Indiana, 60 is the cutoff age. In Arkansas, however, 50 is the cutoff.
A change in a Medicaid waiver reimbursement system for the state’s special-needs population has left some health providers without enough funding to sustain their services.
Changes to the home- and community-based services waiver — which affects approximately 5,000 Iowans who have traumatic brain injuries, developmental or intellectual disabilities — moved the payment model from a fee-for-service model to a tiered rate system, effective Dec. 1, 2017.
While Iowa Department of Human Services officials say this change will create more stability to the reimbursement system, it leaves some such as Jean Sturtz, who care for those covered by the waiver, concerned for their loved ones’ future.
In 2000 about 10% of the world’s population were aged 60 or over. By 2015 that had risen to 12%. United Nations projections indicate that will have increased to 16% by 2030, and jumped to 22% by 2050. The percentages may not seem alarming but to put this into perspective let’s look at the following: by 2025, the world’s population is set to be 8 billion, of which approximately 15% or 1.2 billion will be elderly. Essentially, that is almost equivalent to the population of the second most populous country in the world – India! Another alarming statistic is the projected decline in the working-age population (25-59) between 2030 to 2050 meaning that there will be fewer people to support the growing elderly population – financially and otherwise!
But why does this matter so much? The answer is medical costs! Healthcare expenditure on the elderly is a growing concern, as it accounts for a higher share of expenditure compared to other age groups.
Stroke victims who use Medicaid or are uninsured were more likely to die, stay hospitalized longer and have worse medical outcomes than patients with private insurance, a study by University of Florida Health researchers has found.
The uninsured and Medicaid patients were also more likely to develop a new medical condition in the hospital, according to a study published recently in the Journal of Neurosurgery. The study was the largest and most comprehensive analysis of how insurance status relates to stroke outcomes in the United States. Researchers analyzed nationwide data from more than 1.5 million hospital admissions involving stroke patients between 2002 and 2011.
The most concerning part of the findings was the statistically higher rate of patient-safety issues for those without private insurance, as well as their higher death rate, longer stays and worse outcomes, researchers said. Among Medicaid and self-pay patients, 5.1 percent of stroke victims died in the hospital, compared with 4.4 percent of those with private insurance.
Hospital readmission, an important measure of quality care, costs the United States an estimated $17 billion each year. And according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), about half of those readmissions could be avoided.
Therefore, there is significant interest in identifying factors that influence readmission rates, especially those that can be identified prior to discharge. To pinpoint which stroke patients are most at risk, researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center undertook a retrospective case-control study to determine factors associated with readmission within 30 days. The study is published in the June 11 online edition of the American Journal of Medical Quality.
The nearly 9 million Americans who are dually eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid have long been poorly served by the healthcare system.
These elderly poor and disabled Americans suffer disproportionately from serious medical conditions. In the case of full duals, half initially qualified for Medicare because of disability rather than age, and nearly one-fifth have three or more chronic conditions. Many are obligated to poverty precisely because their serious health problems make it hard for them to sustain jobs or build savings.
Now as a result of Obamacare, many will be forcibly moved into Medicaid HMOs once another long-delayed element of the bill starts to get implemented this fall.
For all of these duals, medical care is especially costly. That has made the “duals” a focus of policy attention. According to a new report from the Congressional Budget Office the average “dual” beneficiary costs the government $33,300 per year. This compares with $8,300 for the average senior who only receives Medicare.
Finding better ways to serve the needs of these “dually eligible” Americans has been a bi-partisan goal that’s eluded successive administrations. Whenever the issue was broached, one of the questions was whether these Americans would end up in Medicare or Medicaid — and which program would better serve their needs. The Obama Administration is betting heavily on states to take control of these patients. The states, in turn, are looking to their Medicaid systems.
Nearly one-third of elderly Americans turn to skilled nursing care during their last few months of life, despite the fact that some may be better served by seeking palliative care services, such as hospice, according to a recent analysis published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) discovered that 31 percent of Medicare beneficiaries who were newly released from the hospital utilized the program’s skilled nursing benefit (the program pays for up to 100 days of nursing home care if a senior was hospitalized for three or more days) in their last six months of life.
What was surprising was that many of these aging adults failed to take advantage of Medicare hospice coverage during this time, even though elders who reside in nursing homes can apply to receive additional palliative care if they are close to death.
This finding raises the question of whether or not these ailing adults are getting the optimal care for their terminal conditions.
Skilled nursing facilities primarily deliver care aimed at either getting an elder functional and back on their feet, or prolonging their life through medical intervention. Hospice care, on the other hand, strives to help an elder (and their family) manage the physical and mental pain of a terminal illness such as cancer or Alzheimer’s disease.