By Jim McLean, June 30, 2016
The Kansas Hospital Association is urging federal officials to stop Gov. Sam Brownback from implementing $56.4 million in Medicaid cuts set to take effect Friday.
Brownback ordered the cuts in May to cover shortfalls in the fiscal year 2017 budget approved by the Legislature. The hospital association is asking the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to immediately intervene to stop the cuts, which include a 4 percent reduction in provider payments.
“Kansas is attempting to fund its self-inflicted budget deficit in substantial part on the backs of Medicaid patients and hospitals and other health care providers,” wrote Tom Bell, KHA president and chief executive, in a June 29 letter to Andy Slavitt, the acting administrator of CMS.
Under normal circumstances, the state would be permitted to implement the cuts before submitting a Medicaid plan amendment to CMS for approval. But Bell argues federal officials need to act quickly to prevent cuts that he and others say could limit Medicaid beneficiaries’ access to care.
“CMS should become directly involved at this point by insisting that the state promptly submit required amendments in a form that can permit immediate action by CMS,” Bell wrote.
In the letter, Bell said the state’s budget problems aren’t enough to justify the cuts, which also would trigger a loss of $72.3 million in federal matching funds.
“The state of Kansas advances no justification for the payment reduction beyond its budget shortfall,” he wrote. “CMS cannot approve a state plan amendment solely driven by budgetary concerns.”
Kansas officials have directed the three managed care organizations that oversee the day-to-day operations of KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, to implement the cuts.
Angela de Rocha, a spokesperson for the state’s Medicaid agencies, declined comment on the KHA letter except to say that state officials weren’t aware of “any instances in which CMS has blocked a state plan to reduce Medicaid provider rates.”
Mike Randol, director of the Division of Health Care Finance in the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said in an interview Thursday that the agency was on track to implement the cuts on schedule.
“We’re on our timeline to implement the reduction on July 1,” Randol said. “We are on target internally to have our state plan amendments changed to reflect the reduction, and those will be submitted to CMS on the appropriate timeline.”
Normally, Kansas officials would have until Sept. 30 to submit the plan amendments for CMS approval.
CMS officials didn’t immediately respond when asked whether the agency would alter that schedule in response to the KHA request.
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