May 13th, 2013
New regulatory issuances and guidances are appearing on a daily basis from the federal agencies responsible for implementing the Affordable Care Act. In order to keep up, my posts are likely to appear even more frequently for the immediate future. This post addresses three issuances: an HHS proposed rule on Medicaid disproportionate share hospital payment reductions; an IRS notice of proposed rulemaking on medical loss ratios for Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans that receive certain tax preferences; and a set of frequently asked questions on the Utah SHOP exchange.
Medicaid DSH payments. The Department of Health and Human Services issued a proposed rule for cuts in disproportionate share hospital payments on May 13, 2013. The DSH program has since 1981 provided federal funding to state Medicaid programs to allow those programs to offer additional support to hospitals that serve a disproportionate share of low-income patients with special needs. The Medicaid DSH program, together with a similar Medicare program, has provided essential support to hospitals that have often borne the brunt of providing services to the uninsured.
With the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of coverage of the uninsured through the expanded Medicaid program and premium tax credits and cost-reduction payments, Congress concluded that DSH payments would be less necessary and cut both the Medicaid and Medicare programs. Since 1998, Medicaid DSH payments to each state have been limited to an annual allotment. The ACA requires reductions in these allotments, beginning with $500,000 for 2014 and increasing to $5.6 million for 2019, before dropping to $4 million of 2020. It also lists five factors that HHS must consider in reducing the state allotments. It does not specify, however, how those factors should be applied or weighted. The proposed rule addresses this question.Read the rest of this entry »