Medicaid Managed Care Organizations: They Ain’t No Jesus!

Many of my clients come to me because a managed care organization (MCO) terminated or refused to renew their Medicaid contracts. These actions by the MCOs cause great financial distress and, most of the time, put the health care provider out of business. My team and I file preliminary injunctions in order to maintain status quo (i.e., allow the provider to continue to bill for and receive reimbursement for services rendered) until an administrative law judge (ALJ) can determine whether the termination (or refusal to contract with) was arbitrary, capricious, or, even, authorized by law.

With so many behavioral health care providers receiving terminations, I wondered…Do Medicaid recipients have adequate access to care? Are there enough behavioral health care providers to meet the need? I only know of one person who could feed hundreds with one loaf of bread and one fish – and He never worked for the MCOs!

On April 25, 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released its massive Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) managed care final rule (“Final Rule”).

Network adequacy is addressed. States are required to develop and make publicly available time and distance network adequacy standards for primary care (adult and pediatric), OB/GYN, behavioral health, adult and pediatric specialist, hospital, pharmacy, and pediatric dental providers, and for additional provider types as determined by CMS.

Currently, 39 states and the District of Columbia contract with private managed care plans to furnish services to Medicaid beneficiaries, and almost two thirds of the 72 million Medicaid beneficiaries are enrolled in managed care.

Access to care has always been an issue. Our Code of Federal Regulations require adequate access to quality health care coverage for Medicaid/care recipients. See blog. And blog.

However, Section 30A of the Social Security Act, while important, delineates no repercussions for violating such access requirements. You could say that the section “has no teeth,” meaning there is no defined penalty for a violation. Even more “toothless” is Section 30A’s lack of definition of what IS an adequate network? There is no publication that states what ratio of provider to recipient is acceptable.

Enter stage right: Final Rule.

The Final Rule requires states to consider certain criteria when determining adequacy of networks in managed care. Notice – I did not write the MCOs are to consider certain criteria in determining network adequacy. I have high hopes that the Final Rule will instill accountability and responsibility on our single state entity to maintain constant supervision on the MCOs [insert sarcastic laughter].

The regulation lists factors states are to consider in setting standards, including the ability of providers to communicate with limited English proficient enrollees, accommodation of disabilities, and “the availability of triage lines or screening systems, as well as the use of telemedicine, e-visits, and/or other evolving and innovative technological solutions.” If states create exceptions from network adequacy standards, they must monitor enrollee access on an ongoing basis.

The Final Rule marks the first major overhaul of the Medicaid and CHIP programs in more than a decade. It requires states to establish network adequacy standards in Medicaid and CHIP managed care for providers. § 457.1230(a) states that “[t]he State must ensure that the services are available and accessible to enrollees as provided in § 438.206 of this chapter.” (emphasis added).

Perhaps now the MCOs will be audited! Amen!

About kemanuel

Medicare and Medicaid Regulatory Compliance Litigator

Posted on June 21, 2016, in "Single State Agency", Access to Care, Accountability, Affordable Care Act, Alliance, Behavioral health, Cardinal Innovations, CenterPoint, CMS, CMS Proposal, DHHS, EastPointe, ECBH, Federal Government, Final Rulings, Knicole Emanuel, Managed Care, MCO, Medicaid, Medicaid Advocate, Medicaid Appeals, Medicaid Attorney, Medicaid Contracts, Medicaid Providers, Medicaid Services, Mental Health Problems, Mental Illness, NC, North Carolina, Partners, Sandhills and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. One basic problem with establishing a robust network of Medicaid funded providers is…..(drum roll)….MONEY. NC several years ago decided that the old mh/dd/sa “local area programs” were no longer affordable and so private providers were contracted to provide services. The fact is, there isn’t a high enough reimbursement rate on a per-hour (or per “unit”) to fund the VAST array of services that are approved. Which means that if an entrepreneur/ private provider cannot actually make money…they ain’t goin’ there! Bingo…. an inadequate provider network. And the ones that try often have to cut corners to make it profitable…bingo…fraud.

  2. Why is Smoky Mountain Center LME/MCO who manages behavioral health for 25% NC counties allowed to violate April NC DHHS guideline that a provider such as myself, a Licensed Psychologist, b forced into an ” Out Of Network” provider status when I hve been a fully fledged Mediciaid provider for over 10 yrs?
    NC DHHS is no help. I continue to make complaints with ther accreditation agency URAC. Any ideas?
    Marsha Hammond PhD Licensed Psychologist NC

  3. SMC exists so they can get high salaries. Go to any training, meeting, etc and you will see 95% SMC staff and 5% provider staff. Which means tax payer dollars are at work so SMC staff can get reimbursed for travel (gas, lodging, meals) for meetings that only they attend. Ridiculous. And someone please look at the lengthy vacations their staff take! up to one month at a time. And many of them are on vacation ALL THE TIME. Who has time for that?

  4. I would love to speak with you!!! Do you have an email or other contact info?

  1. Pingback: CEO of Cardinal Gets a Raise – With Our Tax Dollars! | medicaidlaw-nc

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