Tenn. Block Grant Experiment Would Boost Federal Funding, State Medicaid Chief Says

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Tennessee needs to be the primary state to check a radical method for federal financing of Medicaid, the federal-state well being care program for low-income individuals.

The proposal, Tennessee Medicaid Director Gabe Roberts mentioned, would enhance the federal authorities’s contributions by thousands and thousands of and permit Tennessee to enhance take care of enrollees, maybe providing further companies equivalent to restricted dental take care of some individuals. But critics worry the plan will hurt the poor.

Tennessee, managed by a Republican governor and legislature, has not expanded its Medicaid program as allowed underneath the Affordable Care Act.

The federal authorities pays each state a proportion of the price of caring for anybody eligible for Medicaid ― various from 50% to 77%. And all who qualify get lined.

Tennessee has proposed altering its federal funding (66% of its complete Medicaid finances) into an annual lump sum. (Drug bills could be excluded from the brand new program.) The state mentioned the change would give it extra flexibility to run this system ― which serves 1.four million individuals ― and would get monetary savings.

Conservatives have pursued Medicaid block grants for many years to present states extra energy over this system. But Democrats oppose such efforts, arguing block grants may lead to much less protection and restrict enrollment. They additionally stress that states, over time, may see vital drops in federal Medicaid funding as a result of it might not be primarily based particularly on the variety of enrollees.

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Tennessee’s plan, which was submitted final week to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, wouldn’t change advantages or eligibility ranges.

KHN senior correspondent Phil Galewitz sat down with Roberts final week to speak concerning the subject. His solutions have been edited for readability and size.

Q: Why are you looking for to show Medicaid right into a block grant now, particularly as your state has been experiencing a finances surplus?

This isn’t a standard block grant. We are calling it a modified method. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has been a fan of the block grant concept for some time but additionally cares deeply about ensuring that any method isn’t going to cut back enrollment or companies or folks that we serve.

A state regulation handed this 12 months instructing our administration to file a block grant waiver that will have a ground for federal coming. So if enrollment fell, the cash wouldn’t lower. But if enrollment elevated, the quantity of federal funds could be listed to account for that.

Gabe Roberts, Tennessee Medicaid director(Courtesy of Tennessee Medicaid)

Q: Can you talk about the shared-savings component that Tennessee is proposing?

Any financial savings from this program could be cut up in half with the federal authorities.

We have routinely underspent what the federal authorities tasks for our prices by billions of . So what this proposal does is to ask CMS to reimagine the state-federal funding mechanism as a value-based one, in order that states that function nicely and serve their populations nicely ― but additionally include prices ― are rewarded with further federal to spend money on that inhabitants with out the requirement to give you a state match. Right now, we don’t hold any of the cash we save.

Q: As one of many poorer states, are you keen to threat getting much less cash from the federal authorities for Medicaid?

We consider the best way the waiver is designed mitigates any considerations round a standard block grant program. We don’t consider this may lead to fewer federal coming to the state. This is a chance to convey extra federal to spend to reinforce companies or maybe to supply companies to further individuals we aren’t serving right now.

Q: Some specialists query the legality of the Trump administration approving a sort of Medicaid block grant with out congressional authority. Why do you consider that is authorized?

There are quite a lot of methods we will attain a mutually agreeable answer with CMS on this that clearly comports to federal regulation.

Q: Why is popping Medicaid financing right into a block grant a greater concept for the poor than expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which would offer protection to just about further 300,000 residents? The federal authorities pays 90% of the price of these new enrollees, bringing billions of further federal funding into the state.

These are two totally different and never mutually unique objectives. This is an method that rewards Tennessee for a well-run program, offering high-quality care to members with excessive member satisfaction and underspending CMS projections. This permits us to get entry to a few of these federal financial savings. Medicaid growth requires a major sum of money that the state has to give you on an ongoing foundation. I don’t know that it’s honest to pit the 2 approaches in opposition to one another.

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Phil Galewitz:”>, @philgalewitz

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