CMS Invites States to Innovate With Fixed Medicaid Funding

After months of languishing at the Office of Management and Budget, CMS’s long-awaited state Medicaid director letter addressing so-called block grants appeared on Jan. 30. But the revised 56-page “Healthy Adult Opportunity” guidance made no mention of block grants — which Democrats have long argued are harmful and illegal if applied in entitlement programs — and instead presented states with two options for covering a subset of Medicaid enrollees via a fixed budget with additional program flexibilities. Safety net insurers and Medicaid advocates worry that if implemented, such options could restrict certain “able-bodied” adults from maintaining coverage, while analysts predict such coverage losses would be minimal.

CMS in June had submitted the guidance under the name “State Medicaid Director Letter: Medicaid Value and Accountability Demonstration Opportunity” but pulled that version in November and replaced it with a letter extending a new Section 1115 waiver opportunity to “provide cost-effective coverage using flexible benefit designs under either an aggregate or per-capita cap financing model for certain populations.”

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Lauren Flynn Kelly

Lauren Flynn Kelly Managing Editor, Radar on Medicare Advantage

Lauren has been covering health business issues since the early 2000s and specializes in in-depth reporting on Medicare Advantage, managed Medicaid and Medicare Part D. She also possesses a deep understanding of the complex world of pharmacy benefit management, having written AIS Health’s Radar on Drug Benefits from 2004 to 2005 and again from 2011 to 2016. In addition to her role as managing editor of Radar on Medicare Advantage, she oversees AIS Health’s publications and manages the health editorial staff. She graduated from Vassar College with a B.A. in English.

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