Moving Forward on Arkansas’ Innovative Plan to Provide Health Coverage to 200,000 Arkansans

By Cindy Mann CMS Deputy Administrator and Director, Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced the approval of the Arkansas Medicaid 1115 Demonstration to expand Medicaid coverage to over 200,000 people that do not have access to health coverage.  This demonstration is part of the state’s larger initiative to create affordable, quality coverage options for all its residents. This coverage is possible thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

Over the last few months, CMS has worked closely with Arkansas on the Arkansas Health Care Independence Program, or as they call it in Arkansas, the Private Option and has benefited from public comments from a diverse group of stakeholders. Under the Private Option demonstration, the state will use premium assistance to provide adults who make $15,280 or less with coverage provided by Qualified Health Plans operating in the Health Insurance Marketplace. As a result, most of the newly eligible adults in Medicaid will receive almost all of their Medicaid benefits and cost-sharing coverage through the same plans that are serving Arkansans who enroll through the federally facilitated Marketplace. Under this and all premium assistance approaches, individuals in the demonstration retain all the rights, responsibilities, and protections as other Medicaid beneficiaries, including cost-sharing protections.

Outreach, the application process, and plan choice will be the same regardless of whether an Arkansas resident is enrolled in Medicaid or has a premium tax credit through the Marketplace. Arkansas is leading the state’s outreach effort for the Marketplace.  It is training “Health Insurance Guides” to help individuals in all 75 counties understand their options.  It has been running advertising on 28 television stations, 24 regional radio stations, 118 community radio stations, and in 120 community newspapers.  In addition, ads have been placed on 227 billboards, 100 gas pumps, two Central Arkansas Transit buses, and direct mail will be sent to 254,000 households and 172,000 small businesses.  The marketing tag line of “Get In” has switched to “Get Informed” and will be shift to “Get Enrolled” beginning October 1, 2013. Open enrollment for the new Medicaid demonstration as well as the Marketplace will begin on October 1, 2013 with eligibility effective January 1, 2014.

The Administration remains committed to working with states on the flexibility and resources they need to build new systems for health coverage.  Premium assistance is one option, and we will continue to work with states on solutions that work best to meet shared goals.  We encourage states to come to us with their delivery system ideas, and look forward to continuing to work with states on these and other innovative approaches to provide affordable coverage to all Americans.

Encouraging news about enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP

By Cindy Mann, Deputy Administrator and Director, Center for Medicaid & CHIP Services, Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)

When it comes to getting children the health coverage they need, our nation is moving in the right direction.  According to a new analysis by the Urban Institute, the participation rate in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has increased to 87.2 percent in 2011, up 5.5 percentage points from 81.7 percent in 2008. Over that same time period, the number of eligible uninsured children has declined from 4.9 million to 4.0 million.  At CMS, we are greatly encouraged by this progress, because we know a bump in participation means that more children are getting access to the comprehensive health benefits – including preventive services – that all children need.

In addition to the work states have done over the past decade or more to simplify and streamline enrollment procedures, outreach efforts that include providing application assistance directly to families have played a key role in improving enrollment.  Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius helped galvanize these efforts in 2010, when she launched the Connecting Kids to Coverage Challenge, calling upon leaders at all levels of government, community-based organizations, health centers, school districts, faith-based groups, Indian tribes and others to find and enroll all uninsured children eligible for Medicaid and CHIP eligible children.  We are proud that, working together, our national Connecting Kids to Coverage Campaign, our outreach and enrollment grantees and many other partners have helped to achieve the progress described in the Urban Institute report.

But, there is still more to be done.  Too many uninsured children who could be eligible for Medicaid and CHIP today remain uninsured.  As the Connecting Kids to Coverage Campaign continues to reach out to families across the country, we know that new opportunities to boost enrollment are just around the corner.  Beginning October 1, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, many more parents will be eligible for Medicaid or other coverage available through the Health Insurance Marketplace.  And we know that when eligible parents enroll, they are also likely to enroll their children and take advantage of the preventive services that help them stay healthy.

To find the children’s Medicaid/CHIP participation rate in your state check out this map: http://www.insurekidsnow.gov/professionals/reports/index.html

To find out about health insurance opportunities for the whole family:

https://www.healthcare.gov/

For recent children’s health coverage outreach materials and ideas for how best to use them:

http://www.insurekidsnow.gov/professionals/back_to_school.html

Watch the Insure Kids Now television public service announcement here: http://www.insurekidsnow.gov/professionals/outreach/strategies/tv_and_radio_psas.html

Find out more about the grants we’ve awarded to groups across the country: http://www.insurekidsnow.gov/professionals/index.html

 

A guide for new and first-time physicians participating in federal healthcare programs

By Shantanu Agrawal, MD

With a new class of medical residents beginning their training, and residents and Fellows graduating from their programs every July, it’s important that our critical partners in the delivery of healthcare have the tools they need to understand federal program requirements.  At the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) we have a comprehensive strategy to reduce fraud, waste and abuse that is designed to target risk – that means as we make it harder for bad actors to enroll or bill in our systems, we are always evaluating how to make it easier for legitimate physicians and other providers to participate in Medicare and care for beneficiaries.

CMS demonstrates this commitment with several initiatives:

  • Providers enrolling in Medicare for the first time now have a much easier experience enrolling than in years past. Since 2012, paper is no longer required to complete an application.  Everything can be submitted online, using web-based “PECOS” (the Provider Enrollment, Chain and Ownership System – the official record of every provider in Medicare). That includes required signatures and attachments, such as medical licensure. If an application fee is required – typically owed by organizations – it can also be paid online. The conveniences of the web-based PECOS system allow for faster application processing times over paper-based applications.
  • We recently launched two free mobile applications for Apple iOS and Android devices to help various stakeholders comply with the new requirements of the Open Payments program (commonly known as the Physician Payments Sunshine Act). This program tracks financial relationships between covered physicians and the health care industry – such as pharmaceutical and medical device companies – and will make the data available to the public annually on a website currently being designed. Physicians are not required to report any data, but the mobile applications will help them to track financial relationships and assess reported data for accuracy.
  • CMS is also modernizing how we communicate with physicians. We are now using Facebook / Facebook4 and Twitter / Twitter10 to keep tech-savvy providers up-to-date on the latest CMS news and progress being made.  Use these resources to engage and share your comments on our program efforts via Email and Google.
  • At CMS we also know the risks and challenges that many new physicians face in today’s healthcare landscape. We are dedicated to helping new physicians stay on track with important updates in our Medicare and Medicaid operations. That’s why the Center for Program Integrity is making it easier for physicians to resolve issues of identity theft. We’re providing information on how to protect your medical identity, numerous educational toolkits and Continuing Medical Education (CME) on CMS program integrity activities.

New and practicing physicians should note that as CMS shifts its fraud-fighting strategy to become more proactive, people committing fraud are doing the same. In our long-running patient education programs, we have provided ways patients and their families can spot and prevent scams. And we are developing more fraud-focused materials for health care providers and suppliers.

New physicians are emerging as a new vulnerability because of their inexperience with federal programs, financial obligations resulting from medical school, and aggressive scammers skillfully crafting schemes that appear to be legitimate.

New doctors should be aware of job offers that appear “too good to be true.” As with any other professional offer received or found — in print, on the internet, or other reputable or often-used resources – please be wary of offers that pay large sums of money in exchange for reviewing medical records written by others. Most often these include night and weekend work offers for your professional services to assist home health and durable medical equipment operations, usually off-site.

For Medicare fraud scams, they will require that you enroll or be enrolled in Medicare or PECOS. Never accept money or gifts for work you did not perform. Scammers that are offering cash for your participation in fraud are quick to disappear and have no issue with leaving you out to dry. Convictions for certain health care fraud violations will result in exclusion from federal healthcare programs – and potentially preventing your participation in certain State Medicaid programs and private health plans. Remember, the penalties are much larger than any short-term benefit.

To help new physicians develop defenses against these scams, CMS urges you to:

And most importantly, all doctors and their patients should report fraud as soon as it is suspected to the HHS Office of Inspector General. Tips can be reported either online or by phone at 1-800-HHS-TIPS. It’s never too late to report information, and by doing so you will be joining the fight to protect federal healthcare programs for future generations.

Shantanu Agrawal, M.D., is the Medical Director for the Center for Program Integrity at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

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