Report Shows States Looking to Reign in Medicaid Spending as Cost Increases Loom

States are focusing on reigning in costs as they face an end to federal stimulus money and the continuing weak economy, according to a survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.

State spending for Medicaid is expected to jump 28.7% in FY11, the report said. The Commission’s 11th annual 50-state Medicaid budget survey captured cost containment actions ranging from restrictions on payments to providers and benefits, to new copayments for beneficiaries and additional efforts to contain the costs of prescription drugs.

At the same time, states are trying to make their programs more efficient by increasing their reliance on Medicaid managed care, moving long-term care toward community-based care models, and streamlining enrollment procedures. Even with such measures, Medicaid officials in more than half the states estimate at least a 50-50 chance that they will see a budget shortfall this fiscal year as enrollment continues grow.

The Commission said that the temporary increase in the federal share of Medicaid spending under the economic stimulus package caused state spending on Medicaid to decline. That has required states to ramp up to replace those lost funds, even though states project total spending in the Medicaid program – which is jointly financed by the federal government and the states – to increase on average by a modest 2.2 percent this year.’

“Unemployment remains high with increasing numbers of poor and uninsured keeping pressure on state budgets and Medicaid programs to meet growing needs,” said Diane Rowland, Executive Vice President of the Kaiser Family Foundation and Executive Director of the Foundation’s Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. “But the cumulative effect of two recessions since 2001 and a decade of constrained spending has left no cushion and many of the latest cuts will hit at the core of the Medicaid program.”

The states are responding to the expected spending increases with:

  • Provider rate restrictions. This was the most commonly reported strategy, with 39 states restricting rates in 2011 and 46 reporting plans to do so in 2012. But a number of states also increased or imposed new provider taxes that can generate more federal matching revenue and help mitigate the effects of cuts to some providers.
  • Benefit reductions and restrictions. States continued to eliminate, restrict or reduce Medicaid benefits in areas such as dental, therapies, medical supplies, durable medical equipment and personal care services. Almost all states have been making substantial changes in Medicaid pharmacy programs, including preferred drugs lists, supplemental rebates and prior authorization requirements and states are now focusing on controlling costs for specialty drugs, a rising share of prescription drug spending.
  • New and higher copayments for beneficiaries. Five states in FY 2011 and 14 states in FY 2012 increased copayment amounts or imposed new copayments, compared to only one in FY 2010. Most copayment changes were for pharmacy and emergency room visits, although a few states are requesting federal waivers to implement broader changes that would have higher amounts and apply to populations traditionally exempt in federal law.

Key areas of change observed in the survey included:

  • Medicaid managed care. Seventeen states in FY 2011 and 24 states in FY 2012 reported expanding their managed care programs, primarily by expanding the areas and populations covered. Two-thirds of the nation’s 54 million Medicaid beneficiaries in October 2010 were enrolled in some form of managed care.
  • Dual eligibles. States are expanding the use of disease and care management programs and patient centered medical homes to help coordinate care for duals and other populations with chronic medical conditions. Thirty-seven states submitted letters of intent to pursue additional opportunities to coordinate care for duals based on guidance released by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in July 2011.
  • Long-term care. States continued to shift the delivery of long-term care away from institutions and into community settings. Thirty-two states in FY 2011 and 33 in FY 2012 expanded long term care services, primarily by expanding Medicaid Home- and Community-Based Service programs (HCBS). Most states are still considering whether to adopt new options in the health reform law designed to increase community-based long-term care, but six states reported that they are moving forward with the new options.

The new survey, Moving Ahead Amid Fiscal Challenges: A Look at Medicaid Spending, Coverage and Policy Trends, Results from a 50-State Medicaid Budget Survey for State Fiscal Years 2011 and 2012 , was conducted with Health Management Associates and is available online at

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