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Alabama Medicaid Cumulative MME Edit Coming Early 2019

Alabama Medicaid Cumulative MME Edit Coming Early 2019

In addition to the opioid naïve 5 and 7-day limits, the Alabama Medicaid Agency is working toward implementing cumulative Morphine Milligram Equivalent (MME) edits in early 2019.

Higher doses of opioids are associated with a higher risk of overdose and death; even relatively low dosages (20-50 MME per day) may increase risk.1 Alabama has led the nation for the past six years in the opioid prescribing rate per 100 population (121 in 2016; 107.2 in 2017) and had nearly three times more opioid prescriptions per 100 population than New York.2

The Alabama Medicaid Agency previously executed many programs to address opioid use such as monthly maximum unit limits, therapeutic duplication edits, Drug Utilization Review (DUR) letters, academic detailing report cards and face to face visits, prior authorization, and other educational efforts. Most recently, Medicaid implemented limits for opioid naïve patients to limit first-time use to five days for children and seven days for adults, limiting daily use to 50 MME. Overrides are available for medical necessity.

In an effort to continue combating the opioid crisis, beginning May 1, 2019*, Alabama Medicaid will limit the amount of cumulative MMEs allowed per day on claims for opioid experienced recipients. The edit will begin at 250 cumulative MME per day and will gradually decrease over time. The final MME target is 90 MME per day.

Claims for opioids that exceed the maximum daily cumulative MME limit will be denied. Claims prescribed by oncologists will be excluded from the edit. Long term care and hospice patients will also be excluded; however, children will be included. Overrides for quantities exceeding the MME limit for medical necessity may be submitted to Health Information Designs (HID). Information regarding override requirements and MME examples will be made available on the Alabama Medicaid Agency website closer to the implementation of the new limitations.

The Agency will implement a robust educational program to include academic detailing visits to the prescribers and pharmacies of the first round of affected patients, extensive training, and notifications to the impacted providers through a provider ALERT closer to implementation. Please check the Alabama Medicaid Pharmacy webpage for additional information: http://www.medicaid.alabama.gov/content/4.0_Programs/4.3_Pharmacy-DME.aspx

*At the time of article submission, the implementation date is May 1, 2019, for a ‘phase in’ for 250MME/day. During the phase-in period, a universal prior authorization number will be provided on the pharmacy claim rejection, with an explanation to notify the affected patient/prescriber. Hard stops/edits will begin after the phase-in period.

  1. “Calculating Total Daily Dose of Opioids for Safer Dosage”. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/pdf/calculating_total_daily_dose-a.pdf. Accessed 2/1/2019.
  1. “Understanding the Epidemic”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html. Accessed 2/1/2019.

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SAME Act Could Give Alabama Second Chance at Medicaid Expansion

SAME Act Could Give Alabama Second Chance at Medicaid Expansion

Alabama Sen. Doug Jones introduced legislation this week to give a second chance to expand Medicaid to those states that have not yet expanded their programs. The States Achieve Medicaid Expansion (SAME) Act would also give these states another opportunity to receive the same levels of federal funding that was offered in 2010.

“Alabama made a mistake by not expanding Medicaid. If I can give them an opportunity to rectify that, I’d like to do it,” Jones said in an interview with the Montgomery Advertiser. “I think it’s important for us to expand Medicaid in the state to help save our rural hospitals, get better health outcomes in those rural areas and to provide an economic boost in the state. Let’s finish this job and move forward, instead of languishing and letting our Medicaid dollars that we already pay go to other states.”

Originally in 2010, there would have been federal funds to cover the full cost of expansion for three years for those states that expanded their Medicaid program, at which time federal coverage would drop to 90 percent and states would cover the rest. Should the SAME Act pass, full funding would be offered for three years before decreasing to 95 percent funding in the fourth year, 94 percent in the fifth and 93 percent in the sixth. Federal coverage would stand at 90 percent every year thereafter.

The Medical Association remains an advocate for not only fully funding Alabama’s Medicaid program but also agrees with expansion of the program. Medicaid is a state-run program providing health coverage for about 23,000 low-income residents. To qualify for current Medicaid coverage, families with children must have a household income at or below 18 percent of the poverty level. Expanding the program would take that threshold up to 138 of percent the poverty level, offering access to as many as 325,000 Alabamians.

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New Requirements for Fee-For-Service Delivery Claims

New Requirements for Fee-For-Service Delivery Claims

Effective for dates of services on or after Feb. 1, 2018, fee-for-service delivery claims for recipients who reside in a county not served by an Alabama Medicaid (Medicaid) Maternity Care Program must contain the date of last menstrual period and the date of first prenatal visit. This information is not required for hospital claims.

Counties not included in a Medicaid Maternity Care Program:

District 10:  Autauga, Bullock, Butler, Crenshaw, Elmore, Lowndes, Montgomery and Pike
District 12: Baldwin, Clarke, Conecuh, Covington, Escambia, Monroe and Washington

Soft Denial:
Claims without the date of last menstrual period and the date of the first prenatal visit will receive a “soft” denial.  This means the claim will process, but the provider will receive an alert to remind them to include the information.

Hard Denial:
On Feb. 1, 2019, claims that do not include the date of last menstrual period and the date of the first prenatal visit will be denied.

Some examples of what a provider can expect to see on the denied claim include:
Edit 330 – DTP SEGMENT DATE IS INVALID
Edit 331 – DATE LAST MENSTRUAL PERIOD MISSING OR IN FUTURE

Edit 332 – DATE FIRST PRENATAL VISIT MISSING OR IN FUTURE

Claims with the procedure codes below must include the date of last menstrual period and date of the first prenatal visit:

  • 59400-59410     Vaginal delivery
  • 59510-59515      Cesarean delivery
  • 59610-59622     Delivery after previous cesarean delivery

How can a fee for service provider submit a claim?

  • For claims submitted through 5010 X12 837P:
    1. Enter the date of the patient’s last menstrual period in a DTP segment in loop 2300 with a qualifier of 484
    2. Enter the date of the patient’s first prenatal visit in a DTP segment in loop 2300 with a qualifier of 454
  • For claims submitted on the Medicaid Interactive Web Portal:
    1. Enter the date of the patient’s last menstrual period in the field labeled “last menstrual period date”
    2. Enter the date of the patient’s first prenatal visit in the field labeled “first prenatal visit date”
  • For paper claims submitted on a CMS form 1500:
    1. Enter the patients last menstrual period in block 14
    2. Enter QUAL the value “484” to identify the information in block 14 as the date of the last menstrual period.
    3. Enter QUAL the value “454,” which identifies the information entered as the date of the first prenatal visit in block 15
    4. Enter the date of the patient’s first prenatal visit in block 15
    5. If no prenatal care was received, the date entered in block should be the date of the first contact during the pregnancy.

*Reminder:  Medicaid requires all claims be filed electronically unless they are required to be submitted on paper.

  • PES does not currently allow claims to be submitted with this information, but a software upgrade will be available prior to claims denying for not containing the information.

Note:
Providers within the Maternity Care Program must continue to follow guidelines outlined in the April 13, 2017 ALERT. Please visit http://medicaid.alabama.gov/alert_detail.aspx?ID=12209 for a copy of the ALERT.

Please direct questions to the Fiscal Agent, Provider Assistance Center at (800) 688-7989.

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Medicaid to Host Regional Meetings With Primary Care Providers

Medicaid to Host Regional Meetings With Primary Care Providers

Patient First primary medical providers and other primary care providers are invited to attend one of seven upcoming meetings to learn more about Medicaid’s proposed Alabama Coordinated Health Networks (ACHNs).

ACHNs are designed to create a single care coordination delivery system that effectively links patients, providers and community resources within each of seven regions. In coordination with ACHN, there will be a new way of paying primary care providers which will be discussed at these regional meetings. If ACHN is approved by the federal government, the networks are expected to be implemented on October 1, 2019.

All meetings will be from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.  An online session will be scheduled in February.

Muscle Shoals
Thursday, January 24
NW Shoals Community College – Hospitality Center
800 George Wallace Blvd, Muscle Shoals, AL 35674

Mobile
Tuesday, January 29
Ben May Main Library – Bernheim Hall
701 Government Street, Mobile, AL 36602

Birmingham
Thursday, January 31
Hoover Public Library – Fitzgerald Room
200 Municipal Drive, Hoover, AL 35216

Montgomery
Tuesday, February 5
Vaughn Park Church of Christ
3800 Vaughn Road, Montgomery, AL 36106

For more information, go to http://www.medicaid.alabama.gov/content/2.0_Newsroom/2.7_Special_Initiatives/2.7.6_ACHN.aspx.

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MEDICAID ALERT: Federal Rule Change for Prenatal Claims

MEDICAID ALERT: Federal Rule Change for Prenatal Claims

The passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 requires states to “cost avoid” claims for prenatal services when there is a known liable third party. Prior to this change, states were federally required to “pay and chase” claims with a designated prenatal procedure or diagnosis code. The federal “pay and chase” provision enabled providers to bill Medicaid for prenatal care and receive payment without having to bill the other third party. Medicaid was required to seek reimbursement from the other liable third party. Because of this federal change, the Alabama Medicaid Agency will implement changes within its claims processing system to require providers to bill other known insurance coverage prior to receiving Medicaid payment for prenatal services.

Effective Jan. 1, 2019, for prenatal services claims received for dates of services on or after Feb. 9, 2018, Alabama Medicaid will deny claims when there is other insurance coverage, but no payment or denial by the other insurance is indicated on the claim. Once the provider has billed the third-party carrier, if a denial is received or a balance remains, the provider may then submit the claim to the Alabama Medicaid Agency for consideration of payment.

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Alabama Medicaid Alert: Short-Acting Opioid Naïve Limits

Alabama Medicaid Alert: Short-Acting Opioid Naïve Limits

Effective Nov: 1, 2018, the Alabama Medicaid Agency will begin implementing limits on short-acting opiates for opioid naïve recipients. The Agency defines “opioid naïve” as a recipient with no opioid claim in the past 180 days.

Edit Details:

  • A 7-day supply limit for adults age 19 and older
  • A 5-day supply limit for children age 18 and younger
  • A maximum of 50 morphine milligram equivalents (MME) per day allowed on a claim for an opioid naïve recipient
  • Any claim for a short acting opioid for an opioid naïve recipient exceeding the maximum days’ supply limit or MME limit will be denied.
  • Claims prescribed by oncologists will bypass the edit.
  • Long term care and hospice recipients are excluded.
  • Refills of remaining quantities and/or new prescriptions filled within 180 days of the initial opioid naive claim will require an override.
  • Refills of remaining quantities of prescriptions that are partially-filled will be allowed per State and federal law* but will require an override through Medicaid. See below for more details from the State Board of Pharmacy.
  • For adults, the refill of the quantity remaining on the partial fill will not count towards the prescription limit if filled within 30 days of the original prescription. Monthly maximum unit quantities still apply.
  • Overrides for quantities exceeding the maximum days’ supply limit or MME limit may be submitted to Health Information Designs (HID). Please see the Pharmacy Override External Criteria Booklet for information about override requirements. Please refer to the following link for more information regarding overrides for opioid naïve patients:http://www.medicaid.alabama.gov/content/4.0_Programs/4.3_Pharmacy-DME.aspx.
  • A Recipient Information Sheet for prescribers and pharmacists to provide to recipients can be found athttp://www.medicaid.alabama.gov/content/4.0_Programs/4.3_Pharmacy-DME.aspx.

IMPORTANT: A recipient may not pay cash for the remaining amount over 7 days for the same prescription of a Medicaid-paid opioid claim (ie a single fill/dispense/claim may not be ‘split billed’ to both Medicaid and cash). If the prescription to be paid by Medicaid exceeds the drug’s limit allowed, an override may be requested. Only if the override is denied, then the excess quantity above the maximum unit limit is deemed a non-covered service, and the recipient can be charged as a cash recipient for that amount in excess of the limit. A prescriber must not write separate prescriptions, one to be paid by Medicaid and one to be paid as cash, to circumvent the override process. FAILURE TO ABIDE BY MEDICAID POLICY MAY RESULT IN RECOUPMENTS AND/OR ADMINISTRATIVE SANCTIONS. Source: Provider Billing Manual 27.2.3 

Morphine Milligram Equivalents (MME) Information/Examples

Higher doses of opioids are associated with higher risk of overdose and death. Even relatively low dosages (20-50 MME per day) increase risk.1

Examples of MME calculations/day include:

  • 10 tablets per day of hydrocodone/acetaminophen 5/325 = 50 MME/day
  • 6 tablets per day of hydrocodone/acetaminophen 7.5/325 = 45 MME/day
  • 5 tablets per day of hydrocodone/acetaminophen 10/325 = 50 MME/day
  • 2 tablets per day of oxycodone 15 mg = 45 MME/day
  • 3 tablets per day of oxycodone 10 mg = 45 MME/day
  • 10 tablets per day of tramadol 50 mg = 50 MME/day
  • 1 patch per 3 days of fentanyl 25mcg/hr = 60 MME/day

A link with more information regarding MME calculations is https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/pdf/calculating_total_daily_dose-a.pdf.

*Partial Filling of Schedule II Medication: Per the Alabama State Board of Pharmacy website, there has been a change in federal law regarding partial filling of Schedule II controlled substance (CS). The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) of 2016 passed the United States Senate and was signed into law on July 22, 2016. CARA allows pharmacists to partially fill Schedule II CS. According to CARA, a prescription may be partially filled if: it is written and filled according to state and federal law; the partial fill is requested by the patient or prescribing practitioner; and the total quantity dispensed does not exceed the quantity prescribed. Remaining portions of partially filled prescriptions must be filled within 30 days of the original written prescription date. There is no single specified way to fill or bill prescriptions under the CARA update.2

https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/prescribing/guideline.html
http://www.albop.com/FAQ.aspx

Override Requests
Pharmacy override requests for quantities exceeding the maximum days’ supply limit or MME limit may be submitted to Health Information Designs (HID). Please see the Pharmacy Override External Criteria instructions for information about override requirements at:

http://medicaid.alabama.gov/content/9.0_Resources/9.4_Forms_Library/9.4.13_Pharmacy_Forms.aspx.

The Override Request Form is to be used by the prescriber or the dispensing pharmacy when requesting an override. The form can be found at:

http://medicaid.alabama.gov/content/9.0_Resources/9.4_Forms_Library/9.4.13_Pharmacy_Forms.aspx.

Providers requesting overrides by mail or fax should send requests to:

Health Information Designs (HID)
Medicaid Pharmacy Administrative Services
P. O. Box 3210 Auburn, AL 36832-3210
Fax: 1-800-748-0116
Phone: 1-800-748-0130

Incomplete requests or those failing to meet Medicaid criteria will be denied. If the prescriber believes medical justification should be considered, the prescriber must document this on the form or submit a written letter of medical justification along with the override form to HID. Additional information may be requested. Staff physicians will review this information.

Any policy questions concerning this provider ALERT should be directed to the Pharmacy Program at (334) 242-5050. Questions regarding override procedures should be directed to the HID help desk at 1-800-748-0130.

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Alabama Medicaid Agency Updates

Alabama Medicaid Agency Updates

Short-Acting Opioid Naïve Limits — Effective Nov. 1

Effective Nov. 1, 2018, the Alabama Medicaid Agency will begin implementing limits on short-acting opiates for opioid naïve recipients. The Agency defines “opioid naïve” as a recipient with no opioid claim in the past 180 days.

Edit Details:

  • A 7-day supply limit for adults age 19 and older
  • A 5-day supply limit for children age 18 and younger
  • A maximum of 50 morphine milligram equivalents (MME) per day allowed on a claim for an opioid naïve recipient
  • Any claim for a short-acting opioid for an opioid naïve recipient exceeding the maximum days’ supply limit or MME limit will be denied.
  • Claims prescribed by oncologists will bypass the edit.
  • Long-term care and hospice recipients are excluded.
  • Refills of remaining quantities and/or new prescriptions filled within 180 days of the initial opioid naive claim will require an override.
  • Refills of remaining quantities of prescriptions that are partially-filled will be allowed per State and federal law* but will require an override through Medicaid. See below for more details from the State Board of Pharmacy.
  • For adults, the refill of the quantity remaining on the partial fill will not count towards the prescription limit if filled within 30 days of the original prescription. Monthly maximum unit quantities still apply.
  • Overrides for quantities exceeding the maximum days’ supply limit or MME limit may be submitted to Health Information Designs (HID). Please see the Pharmacy Override External Criteria Booklet for information about override requirements. Please refer to the following link for more information regarding overrides for opioid naïve patients: http://www.medicaid.alabama.gov/content/4.0_Programs/4.3_Pharmacy-DME.aspx.
  • A Recipient Information Sheet for prescribers and pharmacists to provide to recipients can be found at http://www.medicaid.alabama.gov/content/4.0_Programs/4.3_Pharmacy-DME.aspx.

IMPORTANT: A recipient may not pay cash for the remaining amount over 7 days for the same prescription of a Medicaid-paid opioid claim (ie a single fill/dispense/claim may not be ‘split billed’ to both Medicaid and cash). If the prescription to be paid by Medicaid exceeds the drug’s limit allowed, an override may be requested. Only if the override is denied, then the excess quantity above the maximum unit limit is deemed a non-covered service, and the recipient can be charged as a cash recipient for that amount in excess of the limit. A prescriber must not write separate prescriptions, one to be paid by Medicaid and one to be paid as cash, to circumvent the override process. FAILURE TO ABIDE BY MEDICAID POLICY MAY RESULT IN RECOUPMENTS AND/OR ADMINISTRATIVE SANCTIONS. Source: Provider Billing Manual 27.2.3 

Morphine Milligram Equivalents (MME) Information/Examples

Higher doses of opioids are associated with a higher risk of overdose and death. Even relatively low dosages (20-50 MME per day) increase risk.1

Examples of MME calculations/day include:

  • 10 tablets per day of hydrocodone/acetaminophen 5/325 = 50 MME/day
  • 6 tablets per day of hydrocodone/acetaminophen 7.5/325 = 45 MME/day
  • 5 tablets per day of hydrocodone/acetaminophen 10/325 = 50 MME/day
  • 2 tablets per day of oxycodone 15 mg = 45 MME/day
  • 3 tablets per day of oxycodone 10 mg = 45 MME/day
  • 10 tablets per day of tramadol 50 mg = 50 MME/day
  • 1 patch per 3 days of fentanyl 25mcg/hr = 60 MME/day

A link with more information regarding MME calculations is https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/pdf/calculating_total_daily_dose-a.pdf.

*Partial Filling of Schedule II Medication: Per the Alabama State Board of Pharmacy website, there has been a change in federal law regarding partial filling of Schedule II controlled substance (CS). The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) of 2016 passed the United States Senate and was signed into law on July 22, 2016. CARA allows pharmacists to partially fill Schedule II CS. According to CARA, a prescription may be partially filled if: it is written and filled according to state and federal law; the partial fill is requested by the patient or prescribing practitioner; and the total quantity dispensed does not exceed the quantity prescribed. Remaining portions of partially filled prescriptions must be filled within 30 days of the original written prescription date. There is no single specified way to fill or bill prescriptions under the CARA update.2

https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/prescribing/guideline.html
http://www.albop.com/FAQ.aspx

Override Requests
Pharmacy override requests for quantities exceeding the maximum days’ supply limit or MME limit may be submitted to Health Information Designs (HID). Please see the Pharmacy Override External Criteria instructions for information about override requirements at: http://medicaid.alabama.gov/content/9.0_Resources/9.4_Forms_Library/9.4.13_Pharmacy_Forms.aspx.

The Override Request Form is to be used by the prescriber or the dispensing pharmacy when requesting an override. The form can be found at: http://medicaid.alabama.gov/content/9.0_Resources/9.4_Forms_Library/9.4.13_Pharmacy_Forms.aspx.

Providers requesting overrides by mail or fax should send requests to:

Health Information Designs (HID)
Medicaid Pharmacy Administrative Services
P. O. Box 3210 Auburn, AL 36832-3210
Fax: 1-800-748-0116
Phone: 1-800-748-0130

Incomplete requests or those failing to meet Medicaid criteria will be denied. If the prescriber believes medical justification should be considered, the prescriber must document this on the form or submit a written letter of medical justification along with the override form to HID. Additional information may be requested. Staff physicians will review this information.

Any policy questions concerning this provider ALERT should be directed to the Pharmacy Program at (334) 242-5050. Questions regarding override procedures should be directed to the HID help desk at 1-800-748-0130.

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Alabama Medicaid Seeks Public Comments

Alabama Medicaid Seeks Public Comments

Alabama Medicaid is seeking public comment on an amendment to the Alabama Home and Community-Based Intellectual Disabilities Waiver.

Medicaid Intellectual Disabilities Waiver Amendment | Comments Submitted by October 8, 2017

The Alabama Medicaid Agency is seeking public comment on its proposal to amend the Alabama Home and Community-Based Intellectual Disabilities Waiver (ID Waiver).

The waiver supports Alabama citizens who have a diagnosis of Intellectual Disabilities and who would otherwise require the level of care offered in an Intermediate Care Facility for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF/IID) institution to remain in the community. The waiver provides services such as day services and in-home supports. The amendment proposes changes to the sections pertaining to Individual Directed Goods and Services and self-directed services.

A copy of the proposed application can be found on the Alabama Medicaid Agency website. Click here to view waiver documents.

The comment period is open until October 8, 2017. Written comment regarding the proposed waiver amendment are welcome and should be mailed to Samantha McLeod, Associate Director via mail to: Alabama Medicaid Agency, Long Term Care Division, P.O. Box 5624, Montgomery, AL 36103-5624 or via email to samantha.mcleod@medicaid.alabama.gov.

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Alabama Medicaid to Pursue an Alternative to RCOs

Alabama Medicaid to Pursue an Alternative to RCOs

MONTGOMERY – Alabama Medicaid Commissioner Stephanie Azar announced Thursday that in light of known federal administration changes and potential congressional adjustments, the Alabama Medicaid Agency will pursue an alternative to the Regional Care Organization initiative to transform the Medicaid delivery system. The state will work with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to create a flexible program that builds off the Agency’s current case management structure as a more cost-efficient mechanism to improve recipients’ health care outcomes.

Commissioner Azar cited major changes in federal regulations, funding considerations, and the potential for new opportunities for state flexibility regarding Medicaid spending and services under the Trump Administration as key factors in the decision to employ a new strategy for the state Medicaid program. Since the passage of the RCO statute, new managed care regulations have made the RCO program less viable for the state. Additionally, funding uncertainties at the state and federal levels led to the withdrawal of several probationary RCOs.

“It is highly likely that federal health care changes are on the horizon,” Commissioner Azar said. “While the financial implications could be challenging for our state, the new flexibilities and waiver options that the Trump Administration is willing to consider gives our state Medicaid program new options to accomplish similar goals without incurring the same level of increased upfront costs associated with the RCO program. In the coming days, I will work with Gov. Ivey, our stakeholders and CMS to develop an innovative model to accomplish our goal of retooling Medicaid to better serve the needs of Alabamians.”

The Medical Association would like to thank Commissioner Azar for her diligence through the RCO process and willingness to work with Alabama’s physicians.

“Navigating through this process hasn’t been an easy one, and we certainly recognize the work that Commissioner Azar has done on the behalf of Alabama’s physicians to help improve the Medicaid program,” said Medical Association Executive Director Mark Jackson. “We look forward to our continued working relationship with the Commissioner and Gov. Ivey’s administration to solve the challenges on the road ahead.”

Gov. Ivey also supported the shift in strategy adding by statement: “The RCO model didn’t fail; instead the alternative is a recognition that the circumstances surrounding Medicaid have changed, thus our approach must change. Our end goal is clear – to increase the quality of services provided and protect the investment of Alabama taxpayers.”

RCOs were mandated by state law in 2013 to move the Medicaid agency away from its current payment system to one that would incentivize efficient delivery of high-quality healthcare services and improve health outcomes. When the RCOs were first proposed after the Affordable Care Act under the Obama Administration, the plan was appropriate; however, in today’s climate, it is no longer the best use of taxpayer resources, she said. The program was set to launch in 23 north and west Alabama counties on Oct. 1, 2017.

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AARP: States Lag In Keeping Medicaid Enrollees Out Of Nursing Homes

AARP: States Lag In Keeping Medicaid Enrollees Out Of Nursing Homes

By Phil Galewitz, Kaiser Health News | June 14, 2017

States are making tepid progress helping millions of elderly and disabled people on Medicaid avoid costly nursing home care by arranging home or community services for them instead, according to an AARP report released Wednesday.

“Although most states have experienced modest improvements over time, the pace of change is not keeping up with demographic demands,” said the report, which compared states’ efforts to improve long-term care services over the past several years. AARP’s first two reports on the subject were in 2011 and 2014.

The organization ranked states’ performance on long-term care benchmarks such as a supply of home health aides, nursing home costs, long nursing home stays, the employment rate of people with disabilities and support for working caregivers.

With 10,000 people a day turning 65 and the eldest baby boomers beginning to turn 80 in 2026, the demand for long-term care services is expected to soar in coming years.

AARP officials said the House’s bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act would worsen the situation by capping annual federal revenue for states’ Medicaid programs. That bill is now before the Senate.

“The proposed cuts to Medicaid — the largest public payer of long-term assistance — would result in millions of older adults and people with disabilities losing lifesaving supports,” said Susan Reinhard, senior vice president and director of the AARP Public Policy Institute.

The report found strikingly wide variances in the share of state Medicaid spending for long-term care directed to home- and community-based services for elderly and disabled adults in 2014, the latest year for data covering all states. Minnesota, the top-ranked state, spent about 69 percent, but Alabama, ranked last, spent less than 14 percent.

Nationwide, the average edged up from 39 percent in 2011 to 41 percent in 2014.

Only nine states and the District of Columbia spent more on home- and community-based services than on nursing home care, according to the report. Such services include home health care, caregiver training and adult day care.

People turning 65 this year face about a 50-50 chance of needing long-term care services in their lifetime, AARP officials said.

Trish Riley, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, said states face several obstacles to expand home- and community-based options. They include a strong nursing home lobby that does not want to give up its Medicaid dollars and a shortage of transportation and housing options, particularly in rural areas.

An Alabama Medicaid spokeswoman said the state is working on the issue highlighted by AARP but refused to comment on its report.

John Matson, a spokesman for the Alabama Nursing Home Association, rejected the notion that nursing homes are to blame. “We think it’s a shift that needs to happen in Alabama. We can’t build enough nursing homes to meet [the needs of] everyone that is coming,” he said.

The state’s effort to shift Medicaid patients from long-term care into managed care organizations starting next year will help, because those entities will have a financial incentive to keep people at home for care when possible, Matson said.

Reinhard said many states have struggled to expand home- and community-based options for Medicaid enrollees needing long-term care because that is an optional benefit. Nursing homes are mandatory under federal law. While states focus on Medicaid coverage for children and families — as well as non-disabled adults covered by the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act — adults with disabilities have received less attention.

“Long-term care is a stepchild of the program and not a top focus for states,” she said.

To view the full report, go to www.longtermscorecard.org. The report was funded by the AARP Foundation, The Commonwealth Fund and The SCAN Foundation.

KHN’s coverage of aging and long-term care issues is supported by The SCAN Foundation.

Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit health newsroom whose stories appear in news outlets nationwide, is an editorially independent part of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

pgalewitz@kff.org | @philgalewitz

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