Opioid Bill Contains Victories for Medicaid – as the Administration Undermines Medicaid Access

  

This week the Senate passed a landmark piece of legislation, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, that aims to curb the nation’s ongoing opioid-use disorder crisis. The legislation includes a critical provision that enables nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe buprenorphine permanently – once they obtain a waiver required by any provider to prescribe medication-assisted treatment (MAT) – and expands MAT prescribing authority for five years to other advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) specialties: certified nurse-midwives, clinical nurse specialists and certified registered nurse anesthetists.

Medicaid Provisions in the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act

The bill also includes several critical Medicaid provisions aimed at treating individuals who suffer from an opioid-use disorder and preventing others from developing an opioid-use disorder. Taken together, these provisions will significantly increase access to opioid-use disorder treatment and counseling services for some of the nation’s most vulnerable populations and will decrease the rate of new opioid-use disorders.

These provisions include:

  • A temporary suspension (from Fiscal Year 2020 through FY 2023) of the Medicaid institution for mental disease (IMD) exclusion for short-term stays (less than 30 days per year) and the codification of regulations that allow managed care organizations to receive federal funding for patients who are in an IMD for 15 days or less per month (current law does not allow federal payment for patient stays in IMD facilities with greater than 16 beds);
  • A requirement for states to cover MAT, including methadone and counseling services, for opioid-use disorders from FY 2021 through FY 2025;
  • A provision that allows states to cover care for infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome at a residential pediatric recovery center and an extension of enhanced federal match provided under Medicaid for health home services to treat individuals with substance use disorders;
  • A requirement for state Medicaid programs to not terminate coverage for juvenile inmates under the age of 21 while they are incarcerated and an extension of Medicaid coverage for former foster youths ages 18 to 26 who move states, and;
  • A requirement for states to comply with drug review and use requirements as a condition of receiving federal Medicaid funding and a provision that allows state Medicaid programs access to state prescription drug monitoring programs.

Trump Administration Approval of Medicaid Work Requirements

It is ironic, then, that as the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act heads to President Trump’s desk, his administration is actively taking steps that will create barriers for Medicaid beneficiaries to remain covered under the program. CMS Administrator Seema Verma recently defended the administration’s policy of approving Medicaid waivers for demonstration projects that impose work requirements on certain Medicaid populations (i.e., the Medicaid expansion population of low-income, childless adults).

CMS recently faced criticism after 4,300 Arkansans lost Medicaid coverage in September as a result of not meeting the state’s new work requirements; this is the first time in the Medicaid program’s 53-year history that beneficiaries have lost coverage for not meeting work requirements. The administration has approved work requirements for Indiana and New Hampshire, and waivers to impose work requirements are pending in South Dakota, Kansas, Mississippi, Ohio, Maine, Utah and Arizona. Kentucky’s work requirements waiver was struck down in federal court in July, though the administration is currently working with Kentucky to revise implement those requirements nonetheless.

Studies show that work requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries have little to no impact on employment and, as demonstrated in Arkansas, result in coverage losses. According to a December 2017 Kaiser Family Foundation issue brief, roughly 6 in 10 of the 22 million non-disabled adults receiving Medicaid benefits are employed either full- or part-time, while 8 in 10 of these adults live in a working family. Most of these individuals work either for small firms or in low-paying industries which do not offer healthcare coverage and thus rely on Medicaid for such. Further, among those adults who are not working, most report a major barrier to employment such as illness, disability, or care-giving duties. According to the same Kaiser issue brief, Medicaid expansion has not negatively impacted labor market participation; in fact, some research demonstrates that Medicaid coverage supports work.

ANA Commends Congress and Urges Its Members to Vote in the Midterms

ANA applauds Congress for its hard work and dedication in passing the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act and for recognizing the role that RNs and APRNs play in patient care for those with an opioid-use disorder.

However, ANA firmly believes in universal access to comprehensive and affordable healthcare services for all Americans. The recent moves by both the Trump administration and state governments fly directly in the face of that goal and represent major steps backward in the effort to ensure that all Americans – especially vulnerable populations such as low-income women and those with pre-existing conditions – have access to all necessary healthcare services. These moves also undermine the progress made in Congress with the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act.

Healthcare stands to be a major issue in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections – 22 percent of respondents to a June 2018 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll named healthcare as the most important factor in deciding their vote. These elections are right around the corner and are an incredibly important opportunity for ANA’s members to make their voices heard when it comes to determining the future of healthcare in this country. When nurses vote, lawmakers in Washington, DC, and in statehouses across the country listen. Visit ANA’s #NursesVote Action Center today and help us make this the most meaningful election for nurses yet.

Trump Administration Intensifies Efforts to Erode Nation’s Access to Healthcare

  

The Trump administration has recently escalated its attacks on the health system under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and continues to undermine the ability of Americans – particularly low-income women and individuals with pre-existing conditions – to access affordable and comprehensive healthcare coverage. These policy decisions – which come at the same time as a U.S. Supreme Court ruling with implications for access to reproductive healthcare services – are certain to erode the healthcare coverage gains made since 2010 and create significant harm, risk, and uncertainty for some of America’s most vulnerable populations.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on July 10 announced that it would further cut grants to nonprofit organizations that assist individuals in signing up for health insurance coverage on the ACA’s individual market. The federal government provided $63 million to such organizations in 2016, $36 million in 2017, and will provide only $10 million this year – a total reduction of roughly 84 percent. CMS, in another significant shift, will also encourage such organizations to enroll individuals in Association Health Plans (AHPs) as opposed to the more comprehensive ACA health plans. These plans – which the administration expanded last month and which ANA strongly opposes – offer coverage without essential health benefits guarantees and will disadvantage individuals with pre-existing conditions.

The administration argues that insurance companies and brokers are much better at enrolling individuals into insurance plans, and that AHPs offer a less expensive option for Americans struggling to pay for health insurance. However, despite major outreach efforts last year by outside groups – including ANA – to enroll individuals in ACA plans, enrollment dipped for the first time since the law was implemented. Meanwhile, the expansion of AHPs will result in higher premiums and fewer coverage options for Americans with pre-existing conditions, while individuals who purchase coverage through an AHP will have less comprehensive coverage than what is required of ACA health plans.

The administration on July 7 also announced that it would suspend billions of dollars in risk adjustment payments required by the ACA to be paid to insurance companies. These payments are intended to stabilize the individual market by preventing insurance companies from only seeking out healthy individuals and encouraging them to promote coverage for individuals with costly pre-existing conditions.

Suspending these payments creates uncertainty in the individual market, just as insurance companies are determining premiums for calendar year 2019, and could significantly increase premiums in the individual market. The administration’s moves to expand the use of AHPs and decrease the amount of funding available for outreach could be disastrous for individuals who purchase health coverage through the individual market and will likely lead to another year in which the number of Americans without health insurance coverages rises.

The administration, however, has not only taken aim at the ACA’s healthcare coverage regulations. In June, the administration issued a proposal to change regulations related to Title X funding, which provides grants for critical family planning services for millions of Americans, particularly low-income women. This proposed rule would prohibit a recipient of Title X funding from “performing, promoting, referring for, or supporting, abortion as a method of family planning, nor take any other affirmative action to assist a patient to secure such an abortion.” This represents a gag order on providers and denies patients full medical information. This was recently bolstered by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in NIFLA v. Becerra, where the Court ruled that it is unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds for the state of California to require family planning facilities to post information about state-sponsored abortion services.

This is antithetical to the Code of Ethics for Nurses which states that the nurse’s primary commitment is to the patient, whether an individual, family, group, community, or population. This proposed rule interferes with that relationship and violates basic ethics of the profession, while threatening the ability of millions of Americans to access basic, preventive reproductive health care, such as birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, and well-woman exams. The uninsured, women of color and low-income families will be disproportionately affected if the clinics and health centers in their communities can no longer offer the needed care and critical medical information.

ANA firmly believes in universal access to comprehensive and affordable healthcare services for all Americans. The recent moves by the Trump administration fly directly in the face of that goal and represent major steps backward in the effort to ensure that all Americans – especially vulnerable populations such as low-income women and those with pre-existing conditions – have access to all necessary healthcare services. The midterm elections this November are an incredibly important opportunity for ANA’s members to make their voices heard when it comes to determining the future of healthcare in this country. We urge you to make nursing’s voice heard loud and clear by supporting candidates who align with ANA’s principles for health system transformation and who are proven to be advocates for nurses and their patients!

Why Medicaid is More Important Than Ever

  

Too often overlooked in recent debates is the role that Medicaid plays in children’s healthcare coverage. Of the 74 million Americans covered by Medicaid, nearly 36 million are children enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) – which was enacted in 1997 to ensure affordable and accessible healthcare coverage for low-income children. Roughly 38 percent of American children receive healthcare services through these two programs, and they have been critical in increasing the percentage of American children with health insurance coverage to a historic high of 95.5 percent in 2016.

Medicaid and CHIP are particularly important to some of the nation’s most vulnerable children – 76 percent of children living in poverty, 48 percent of children with special health needs, and 48.8 percent of children ages three and under are covered under Medicaid and CHIP. Furthermore, 49 percent of births are covered by Medicaid. Without these two programs, millions of children would go without crucial healthcare services, positioning them for a lower quality of life further down the road.

And yet, despite the indubitably positive impacts that these programs have for America’s youngest and most vulnerable, Congressional Republicans and the Trump Administration have repeatedly attempted to scale them back and reduce the number of Americans who receive coverage. Congress voted on several bills in 2017 – all of which failed to pass both chambers – which would have reduced Medicaid eligibility, slashed funding, and imposed caps on state Medicaid programs. Congress also chose to play political football with CHIP, which expired on September 30, 2017, and did not re-authorize the program until January 2018, a full four months after its funding had expired. The Trump Administration has also opened the door for states to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. These proposals have all been aimed at low-income Americans, who are burdened enough already as they work to make ends meets.

Reducing coverage to reduce poverty and encourage work is counterintuitive given that Medicaid actually encourages Americans to remain employed, and implementing such proposals would have drastically negative impacts on the nation’s low-income and vulnerable populations. Seventeen percent of American parents receive health insurance coverage through Medicaid; reducing Medicaid eligibility and funding for adults would also reduce coverage for those children whose parents receive coverage through Medicaid. Medicaid also helps to keep millions of Americans out of poverty and out of debt. The burden of this reduction in coverage, meanwhile, would fall equally, and unfairly, on parents and their children.

While CHIP has been fully re-authorized for 10 years and there are currently no legislative proposals to roll back Medicaid coverage that appear close to passage this Congress, it is important to recognize not only during this Medicaid Awareness Month, but all year, the impact the Medicaid has on such a large segment of Americans. ANA continues to support universal access to affordable and accessible healthcare coverage and continues to stress the importance of preventive services. Medicaid and CHIP are some of the most important programs toward achieving those principles, and we urge Congress and the Trump Administration not to jeopardize Medicaid coverage for any Americans.