Sometimes a wonky, technical change by the federal government can have life and death consequences for millions of Americans and thousands of West Virginians.
One of those critical changes was proposed on May 7 in the Federal Register. The Trump administration proposed a change to the Census Bureau’s Official Poverty Measure (OPM) calculation that sets the Federal Poverty Guidelines. The suggested change is to switch the current inflation rate used to calculate the OPM to a calculation with a lower annual adjustment.
Did I lose you yet?
The bottom line is that the Federal Poverty Guidelines are already too low, and this change makes then even lower.
The current official Federal Poverty Line for 2019 is set at $12,490 for a single individual (just $1,040 per month) and $25,750 for a family of four.
If the Federal Poverty Guidelines shrink lower, then fewer low-income individuals and families will be able to qualify for programs that help that stretch low wages to meet basic needs. The proposed change to the inflation factor will lower these Guidelines year after year and define more and more individuals and families “out” of poverty with no change to their actual economic standing.
This seemingly “technical” change will ripple across an entire spectrum of services, with life and death consequences.
This proposed change would reduce access to income-based health programming including Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the premium tax credit and subsidy assistance in the state health insurance marketplaces, and Medicare premium assistance for low-income elders and people with disabilities.
In West Virginia, who relies on these income-based programs and could be at risk?
- Our neighbors, friends and family who relied on Medicaid and CHIP in March 2019 (529,000 West Virginians)
- In West Virginia, Medicaid covers:
- 1 in 4 adults under age 65
- 3 in 5 low-income adults
- 1 in 2 children
- 3 in 4 nursing home residents
- 1 in 2 people with disabilities
- Older adults and people with disabilities who are on Medicare and also eligible for Medicaid (“dual eligible”) that help pay for their Medicare coverage (89,000 West Virginians)
- People who rely on state health insurance marketplace advance premium tax credit and cost-sharing assistance (21,000 West Virginians).
- Low-income pregnant women who rely on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which services more than 40,000 West Virginian moms and infants
TAKE ACTION! RAISE YOUR VOICE!
It is incredibly important to push back on this proposal. Each of us have the right to comment by June 21 and it only takes a few minutes to make your voice heard. The Federal Register has a link to comment by email and the national Coalition on Human Needs has a portal to help concerned citizens submit comments in opposition to shrinking the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
President Trump's proposed budget would add millions to the ranks of the uninsured by repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and making deep cuts in Medicaid.
It proposes cutting $777 billion over ten years from Medicaid and ACA subsidies that help people afford marketplace health coverage, primarily by repealing the ACA, including the Medicaid expansion, and replacing that coverage with an inadequate block grant, while also imposing a per-capita cap on the rest of the federal Medicaid program. These proposals would end the ACA’s nationwide protections for people with pre-existing conditions, cause millions more people to become uninsured, and increase costs and otherwise impede access to health care for millions more. The budget also includes other Medicaid cuts, such as making it harder for eligible people to obtain coverage by requiring additional documentation of citizenship or immigration status, re-imposing asset tests, and making it harder for some seniors and people with disabilities to qualify for Medicaid without selling their homes.
For an analysis of the President's budget, see this initial report from the national Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and this Health Policy Hub blog from our partner national organization, Community Catalyst.
The good news - the President's budget is dead on arrival in Congress. Over the next months, Congressional Democrats and Republicans will need to work together to develop their own budget. Stay tuned as Congress moves forward.
The West Virginia regular legislative session ended on March 9. While the session had its share of controversy, three bills supported by West Virginians Together for Medicaid were sent to the Governor’s desk:
SB 546 – expanding Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage to low-income, uninsured pregnant women up from 163% to 300% of the federal poverty level (fpl). Prenatal care, delivery, and 60 days postpartum care are covered. Before SB 546, Maternal and Child Health Block Grant money paid for some pregnancy coverage up to 185% fpl. These funds can now be diverted to pay for other needed services for families.
HB 2405 – places a tiered assessment on all Health Care Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) in order to “permit the maximization of federal matching dollars for use in the state Medicaid program.” All HMOs operating in the state are subject to the assessment except PEIA (state-employee plans), FEHBP (federal employee plans), and Medicare Advantage plans. The assessment will sunset in three years. The assessment rate would be based on a per member per month basis and is higher for Medicaid member months than for nonMedicaid members. The revenues raised go into a Medicaid dedicated fund and will pull down federal matching dollars. WV receives at least $2.99 in federal funds for every state dollar spent on Medicaid.
HB 2010 – About 80% of the WV Medicaid population is enrolled in Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) and CHIP is transitioning to managed care. This bill transitions the foster care child population to a single MCO and will eventually transition all families at-risk of an out-of-home placement of a child to the same MCO. The purpose of the transition is to enhance overall coordination of services, ensure continuity of care as a child moves through the system, and enhance linkages between medical and social services. The bill also has other provisions to improve the WV foster care system, including to: 1) create a foster care ombudsman; 2) require DHHR to enter into performance-based contracts with child placing organizations; 3) require a study of kinship care; 4) extend the time a foster care certification is authorized; 5) require that a home safety assessment takes place annually; 6) sets rules regarding removal of a child from a residential child care program; 7) prohibits the termination of parental rights when the parent participating in a medically assisted treatment program; and, 8) establishes rules about when a foster child can be placed in an out-of-state facility.
In addition, West Virginians Together for Medicaid opposed HB 3136 to create a work requirement in the Medicaid program. The bill died in the House. Although Medicaid work requirements have been defeated two years in a row, we expect to see a Medicaid work requirement initiative again in 2020.
Thank you to all who made calls to the legislature to express their support of the Medicaid program and to share their personal stories of how Medicaid has made a positive difference in their lives.
PLEASE CALL WV DELEGATES AND ASK THEM TO SUPPORT SB 564
KEY TARGETS RIGHT NOW ARE THE DELEGATES ON THE HEALTH AND HUMAN RESOURCES COMMITTEE – CLICK HERE FOR NAMES AND PHONE NUMBERS
- On cross-over day in the West Virginia legislature, SB 564 passed unanimously in the Senate and now will be considered by the House.
- SB 564 will provide Medicaid/CHIP health insurance coverage to low-income, uninsured pregnant women up to 300% of the federal poverty level.
- SB 564 will cost WV only $600,000 – because most of the money will be federal matching funds.
- SB 564 represents one of the most important investments that our legislators could make to give West Virginia a brighter future – and an opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to work together.
- The health of a mother and her child’s health are intertwined. To have a healthy start for a child born in West Virginia, women need health services during pregnancy – including prenatal services - and new mothers need health services to stay healthy as they take on the responsibility of care for their newborn baby.
- As our state confronts a growing drug epidemic, the importance of providing health services to this population has never been more important.
AGAIN - KEY TARGETS RIGHT NOW ARE THE DELEGATES ON THE HEALTH AND HUMAN RESOURCES COMMITTEE – CLICK HERE FOR NAMES AND PHONE NUMBERS
PLEASE make a difference and pick-up the phone. It will only take a minute.
To: West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources
Attention: Jeremiah Samples, Deputy Director
From: Kathleen D. Stoll, Esquire
Principal, Kat Consulting
RE: HB 3136 and Risk of Federal Litigation
The federal District Court of the District of Columbia ruled in June 2018 that Kentucky’s effort to add work reporting requirements to the state’s Medicaid program was “arbitrary and capricious.”
Judge James Boasberg ruled that the administration never adequately considered whether the work reporting requirements and other restrictions would violate the program's central purpose of providing medical assistance to vulnerable citizens. The implementation of the work reporting requirement was stopped. The federal court’s 60 page decision is here.
The Trump administration then re-approved what was essentially the same request from Kentucky, to go into effect on April 1, 2019.
Kentucky made no changes to the key features of the project; it continues to include work reporting requirements and program lockouts.
The 15 plaintiffs suing the administration now have filed their suit in the same federal court and want to have the new Trump administration approval also declared to be arbitrary and capricious. Plaintiffs from Arkansas have also joined the lawsuit asking for the program to be vacated. Oral arguments have been set for March 14 before Judge Boasberg. The amended 53 page complaint is here.
HB 3136 will require a Medicaid 1115 waiver that will be parallel to the Kentucky and Arkansas waivers. Kentucky’s waiver seeks to allow the state to deny coverage to any nondisabled adult who cannot prove they are working, volunteering or in school for at least 20 hours per week.
It is the expectation of legal experts following the lawsuits that Judge Boasberg will again vacate both the Kentucky and Arkansas work reporting requirements and Medicaid lock-out.
The lawsuit will be appealed to the Federal District Court of Appeals and could go up to the Supreme Court.
Unless Congress acts to change the underlying Medicaid statute, the eventual final court ruling will uphold Judge Boasberg’s decision and vacate state Medicaid work reporting requirements. It is unlikely that Congress will open up the underlying Medicaid statute to incorporate a change to the stated purposes of the Medicaid program or to specifically allow work reporting requirements in new statutory language.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote to the administration that the requirements “threaten to impede access to critical care for millions of Americans.”
The Democrats called on Azar to “put a halt to” approving more states to implement work requirements. “We unfortunately are now seeing these concerns play out in real life in the state of Arkansas where thousands of individuals have been forced off and locked out of their Medicaid coverage,” they added in the letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar.
Three national level entities – the National Health Law Program, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Families USA – have stated that they will bring a suit against the state of West Virginia if a Medicaid 1115 waiver is submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services pursuant to implementation of HB 3136. In addition, two West Virginia based entities have stated they will join the lawsuit as plaintiffs bring forward West Virginia Medicaid enrollee. It is also likely that a number of disease and provider associations will sign on to an Amicus Curiae brief to the court based on their current opposition to HB 3136.
The cost to West Virginia to defend this lawsuit is very difficult to estimate. However, based on similar state experiences, it will be in the tens of millions of dollars in legal staff time and possible outside counsel contracts to defend a work reporting requirement.
West Virginia Families Need a Healthy Start: SB 564 Expanding Coverage for Pregnant Women and New Mothers
The health of a mother and her child’s health are intertwined. To have a healthy start for a child born in West Virginia, women need comprehensive health services during pregnancy – including prenatal services - and new mothers need health services to stay healthy as they take on the responsibility of care for their newborn baby.
As our state confronts a growing drug epidemic, the importance of providing health services to this population has never been more important.
West Virginia was the first state to take advantage of a SUD 1115 Medicaid waiver to expand the scope of substance use disorder services available to Medicaid enrollees.
It is time for West Virginia to continue our leadership and expand comprehensive Medicaid and CHIP coverage for uninsured pregnant women up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), and for the new mother to have coverage for at least 60 days with the possibility of extending coverage up to two years postpartum for all eligible women depending on feasibility under federal law.
What West Virginia Provides Now and How Coverage Changes Under SB 564: The Healthy Start for West Virginia Families Proposal
Under Current Law
- Up through 138% FPL - Medicaid provides coverage to all adults including pregnant women up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Pregnant women and new mothers receive a comprehensive range of services, including behavioral health services, with very low , copayments.
- 139 - 163% FPL – Medicaid provides prenatal care/delivery/60 days postpartum care to pregnant women.
- 164 – 185% FPL – Maternal and Child Health (MCH) federal block grant funds provide only prenatal care and delivery services to pregnant women, not comprehensive coverage.
Under SB 564
- Up through 138% FPL - Medicaid provides coverage to all adults through 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Pregnant women and new mothers receive a comprehensive range of services, including behavioral health services, with very low premiums and copayments.
- 139 - 185% FPL - Medicaid provides prenatal care/delivery/60 days postpartum care for pregnant women.
- 186 - 300% FPL - CHIP provides prenatal care/delivery/60 days postpartum care for pregnant women
- Above 300% FPL - Maternal and Child Health (MCH) federal block grant funds provide otherwise uninsured pregnant women prenatal care/delivery/60 days post-partum care
In 2018, West Virginia considered putting a Medicaid work requirement but decided that this policy would not make good sense for our state. So far, in 2019 no proposals to create a work requirement are moving. However, rumors are that a proposal may emerge. So now is a good time to look through our past blogs on this issue as well as learn more from the recent Rural Health Association webinar on what a Medicaid work requirement might mean for West Virginia.
Here's an audio recording of the webinar.
And here are some helpful resources from the webinar:
We all know that Medicaid saves lives. Medicaid also helps West Virginia families survive financially. And Medicaid is a critical lifeline for rural health providers. Medicaid boosts our state economy and creates West Virginia jobs.
These facts are important as we educate our state legislators about why Medicaid Matters for West Virginia.
Medicaid = Financial Stability for West Virginian Families
Medicaid associated with significant reduction in people’s unpaid bills of all types, amount of debt sent to collection agencies, & credit card debt.
- 10 percentage point increase in Medicaid eligibility reduces personal bankruptcies by 8 percent
- Medicaid covered families 40% less likely to borrow money or skip paying bills to cover medical expenses http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1108222
Medicaid = Lifeline for Rural Providers
Rural hospitals’ financial status improved in Medicaid expansion states (states like West Virginia that opted to raise Medicaid eligibility to cover more adults with higher federal matching dollars per the Affordable Care Act)
- Medicaid revenue as a share of total hospital revenue rose 33%
- Operating margins increased by 4 percentage points (difference between total revenues & operating costs) https://www.cbpp.org/research/health/affordable
Medicaid = Good Medicine for West Virginia Economy
Every $1 that West Virginia spends on Medicaid covered health care is matched by $2.9 from the federal government. The total annual Medicaid budget is $4.4 billion but $3.4 billion is new federal dollars pulled into the state generating significant jobs & business activity.
WVU Bureau of Business & Economic Research used macro-economic modeling to quantify positive impact of Medicaid on WV economy in the report “Medicaid’s Impact on West Virginia’s Economy”:
- $10 m Medicaid state spending = $29 m in new federal dollars =
- $49 million new overall annual economic output
- 520 new jobs
- $1.8 million in additional state tax revenue
Jenny's Medicaid Story: “LOOKING BACK, IF I DID NOT HAVE MEDICAID, I WOULD BE DEAD. IT SAVED MY LIFE.”
Meeting Jenny during her lunch break at her public service job was inspiring to say the least. As I listened to her story of pregnancy, cancer survival, job challenges, raising children, and taking care of her aging mother, I was reminded of so many other West Virginians who face multiple choices and challenges to keep their family and themselves healthy.
Jenny worked as a public service employee with Public Employee Insurance Agency (PEIA) health coverage for more than 12 years. Jenny went on medical leave in the fall of 2015 for her second pregnancy. Jenny and her husband and teenage son had carefully planned ahead – they saved and budgeted to pay her PEIA health insurance premiums while she was at home without income.
The successful pregnancy brought a beautiful baby girl into this world. But with bills and financial obligations beginning to pile up, Jenny felt the need to help provide for her family by going back to work after six weeks. Her choice was made easier with support from her own mother who was willing to watch the newborn while Jenny and her husband were working.
Unfortunately, like many of us have experienced, the best plans do not always work out. Jenny’s mother fell and shattered her femur at 64 years of age. Jenny had to think about how to best take care of her family.
Jenny decided she had no choice but to reduce her work hours to part-time so she could care for her newborn baby and her mother. With the reduction in hours, Jenny lost her PEIA health insurance. According to Jenny, they couldn’t put the baby girl on her husband’s insurance because they couldn’t afford the increase in family premiums with the change in income. At this point, Jenny wasn’t sure what her options were, but she knew she and her family needed health insurance protection.
In December of 2015, Jenny like many individuals trying to navigate the health insurance world, signed up through healthcare.gov and discovered she qualified for Medicaid thanks to the West Virginia Medicaid Expansion. Jenny was thrilled to learn that “It covered everything.”
With coverage for her baby girl and herself, Jenny and the baby were able to continue regular visits to their doctors. Jenny is clear that “I would not have gone to the doctor” without Medicaid. Even routine medical visits are expensive and Jenny – like most people – worry about being able to pay the doctor even for the cost of a basic doctor’s visit and screening tests.
And in this case, going to the doctor for a regular check-up saved Jenny’s life. A gynecological exam and pap smear in August of 2016 found a rare form of cervical cancer (a rare 85/20 combo of adenosarcoma and Squamish). Thanks to the care from her physician Dr. Ellie Hood at Valley Health, her life was saved.
Medicaid covered the robotic DaVinci surgery in 2017 for her hysterectomy to battle the cancer. Now, in January 2019, she can celebrate being cancer free, enjoy raising her children, and being back to work full time in the public service sector.
Jenny wants to remind her fellow West Virginians, “If it can happen to me….”
It only takes one unexpected event to derail a West Virginian’s plans to care for their family. Jenny is proud of her college education and she thought she had achieved middle-class financial security. Now Jenny understands that a single stroke of misfortune can wipe out a family’s peace of mind - of knowing they can afford to go the doctor to take care of themselves so they can take care of their family.
Today, Jenny’s daughter is covered by the West Virginia Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). With her CHIP coverage, Jenny’s daughter was able to see the doctor for a serious ear infection. With CHIP, the trip to the doctors and prescription for the ear infection cost $15 - “which is a reasonable amount for a family” according to Jenny.
If Jenny had not had Medicaid, she would have gone without health insurance and health care during the three years she worked part-time so she could care for her mother and her daughter. The consequences would have been tragic. As Jenny states, without Medicaid, “I would have been dead.”
Jenny from Barboursville, wants everyone to understand one important thing - Medicaid Matters.
West Virginians Together for Medicaid thanks Jenny for standing up for Medicaid by sharing her personal story. If you are interested in sharing your Medicaid or CHIP story, reach out to us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/WVTFM/) or Twitter @WVTFMedicaid by sending us a message or give our Story Collection Coordinator, Lara Foster, a call 304-702-6708. Your story can help more West Virginians understand how important Medicaid is to our state’s families.
This past Friday night Federal District Court Judge Reed O’Connor issued a ruling in the Texas v. Azar lawsuit brought by 20 state attorneys general. Judge O’Connor’s found for the plaintiffs and struck down the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The most important things to know about the ruling are:
First, for now, nothing changes: the ACA remains the law of the land.
- The Medicaid expansion in West Virginia and other states is still in place.
- Judge O’Connor did not issue an injunction ordering the Administration to stop enforcing the law, and the White House issued a statement affirming that the ACA remains the law of the land pending appeal.
- Healthcare.gov emailed consumers telling them that they should still sign up for coverage on the final day of open enrollment, and there will not be changes to their coverage for 2019.
Second, the ruling will be appealed, and the legal arguments are extraordinarily weak.
- Judge O’Connor’s decision hinges on the fact that the 2017 tax law zeroed out the penalty attached to the ACA’s individual mandate. The claim is that in zeroing out the penalty, Congress rendered not only the mandate but the entire ACA unconstitutional, effectively repealing the ACA as a byproduct of the tax bill.
- Legal experts across the political spectrum, including experts who opposed the ACA and supported previous legal challenges to the law, have called that argument “absurd,” noting that Congress obviously intended to zero out the ACA mandate penalty without changing the rest of the law.
- Seventeen state attorneys general (led by Xavier Becerra from California) had already intervened in the lawsuit to defend the ACA, and they will be able to continue to defend the law on appeal.
- However, West Virginia Attorney General Morrisey has joined the lawsuit on the side to strike down the ACA and terminate both the Medicaid Expansion for 175,000 West Virginians and end the premium subsidies in the Marketplace for close to 30,000 West Virginians.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
1. Call on President Trump to reverse his position and have his Administration defend the ACA in court.
Phone Number: 1-202-456-1111
TTY: 1-202-456-6213. 1-202-456-2121 (Visitor's Office)
2. Call on Attorney General Morrisey to remove West Virginia from the list of states that are on the side arguing to wipe out the ACA and Medicaid Expansion.
3. Call on West Virginia’s United States Congressional delegation to reject the decision, support an appeal to overturn the ruling and leave the ACA and Medicaid expansion intact, and take action to preserve the ACA.
Contact information for all West Virginia delegation members HERE.