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Attention Medicaid Providers: Potential SPA Decreases PCS Rates By 60 Cents Per 15 Minutes

The North Carolina State Medicaid Plan (State Plan) is constantly revised.  The result of its constant revisions make for an 1800+ page, jumbled mess of plans, rules, amendments, and effective dates that make the State Plan as much fun to read as reading every volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica in Japanese with the aid of a Japanese translation dictionary.

First of all, what the heck is the State Plan?  Basically, a State Plan is a contract between a state and the Federal Government describing how that state administers its Medicaid program.  It “assures” the federal government that we, here in NC, will follow the State Plan because the federal government has “blessed” our State Plan.  Whenever we need to change the State Plan, we file an amendment.  In circumstances that call for much greater deviation from the State Plan, we can apply for a Waiver…or an exception.

On or about August 15, 2013, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) issued a Public Notice providing notice of its intent to amend the Medicaid State Plan for the purpose of defining the reimbursement methodology of Personal Care Services as directed by Section 10.9F of Session Law 2013-306 (House Bill 492). “

Personal Care Services (PCS) are Medicaid-covered, in-home services to recipients “who have a medical condition, disability, or cognitive impairment and demonstrates unmet needs for, at a minimum three of the five qualifying activities of daily living (ADLs) with limited hands-on assistance; two ADLs, one of which requires extensive assistance; or two ADLs, one of which requires assistance at the full dependence level. The five qualifying ADLs are eating, dressing, bathing, toileting, and mobility.”  See DHHS Website.

In a letter dated September 30, 2013, and signed by Sec. Aldona Wos, DHHS sent what is called a SPA or a State Plan Amendment to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), in part, asking to be allowed to change the PCS unit rate from $3.88 to $3.28.

$3.88 to $3.28…

It may not sound like a huge decrease in pay to you, but a 60 cent drop per unit will be extremely harmful to providers who provide PCS services and, ultimately Medicaid recipients because less providers will be willing to serve the population.

One PCS unit is 15 minutes.  There are 4 units in an hour.  A 60 cent/unit cut to the rate will result in a $2.40 hourly cut.

Providers who employ staff who provide PCS are not paying staff upwards of $20/hour.  Oh, no, most PCS providers make, maybe, $7-9. 

Think about it…a small business provider of PCS (Let’s call it ABC Provider) employs 5-10 staff to provide PCS to recipients.  ABC Provider has to pay its overhead (lease, office supplies, salaries of execs) plus pay the hourly wages of the PCS staff, and, supposedly, still make a profit…otherwise why even work?

For one hour of PCS, prior to a rate reduction, ABC Provider grosses $15.52/hour.  Obviously, a portion of the $15.52 must go to overhead.  ABC Provider pays her staff $9.00/hour. So ABC Provider nets $6.52/hour to pay for overhead.  After 1000 man-hours, maybe ABC Provider can pays its rent and its utility bill.  BTW: In order to reach 1000 man hours, it would take a person to work 41.66 days, 24 hours/day.  Or it could take 10 staff working 10 hours/day for 2 weeks…just for the provider to make $6520 to pay bills…we aren’t even talking about profit…

After the rate reduction?

$2.40 has to be recouped somehow.  Does the provider’s profit margin shrink or does the employee’s hourly rate decrease?  Maybe a little of both.

According to the September 30, 2013, Sec. Wos letter, NC DHHS requested a retroactive date for the PCS rate reduction to July 1, 2013, or, in the alternative, October 1, 2013.

What? Retroactive reduced rates?  Would DHHS recoup payments already made?

As of the day of this blog, I have not found out whether CMS approved the SPA sent to CMS September 30, 2013.  I looked on CMS’ website.  So if anyone reading has information as to whether CMS approved, is approving, denied, or is denying the rate reduction, I, as well as other people, would be much obliged for the information.

Proposed NC Medicaid Bill: Circumventing the State Plan?

Proposed House Bill 320 will be heard in committee on Tuesday, May 14, 2013.

For those of you who do not know what House Bill 320-2013 is, let me explain:

As of now, when a health care provider’s Medicaid contract is terminated or suspended by a Managed Care Organization (MCO), the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH), not superior court, has jurisdiction over the grievance.  OAH is the administrative court set up to hear grievances against a state agency. 

When North Carolina ceased DHHS’ issuance of a Final Agency Decision after the OAH decision back toward the end of 2012, North Carolina, in essence, was handing OAH a decision-making role in Medicaid.  The reason that any entity getting a decision-making role in Medicaid is so important is because the federal statutes specifically state that Medicaid must be run by a single state entity.  The fact that OAH had a decision-making role in Medicaid would violate the single state entity requirement.

So what did NC do in order to ensure compliance with the single state entity requirement set forth by the federal government?

NC asked the federal government for a Waiver.  Or, in other words, an exception.  NC asked the federal government, “Can we have permission to allow OAH to have a decision-making role and not be in violation of the single state entity requirement?”

The federal government authorized our request, which can be found as the State Plan, Attachment 1.1D.

Our State Plan, Attachment 1.1B states:

“OAH acknowledges and also agrees that the issue to be determined at final hearings conducted in accordance with this waiver is whether the single state Medicaid agency or one of its contractors or agents exceeded its authority or jurisdiction, acted erroneously, failed to use proper procedure, acted arbitrarily or capriciously, and/or failed to act as required by law or rule; that it will conduct de novo reviews in beneficiary.”

Therefore, according to our State Plan and the federal government’s authorization, OAH hears cases involving DMA and its contractors or agents.

Yet proposed House Bill 320 states, in pertinent part (at 108D-18(d), “Notwithstanding any other law, OAH does not have jurisdiction over any dispute between an LME/MCO and a provider or applicant.”

Obviously the State Plan and the legislature are at odds.  After receiving the authorization to do something by the federal government, can NC legislate around what the feds told us to do? Seems pretty hairy.  Personally, I would go with that whole Supremacy Clause stuff.

Proposed House Bill 320 would take the decision-making role regarding Medicaid away from OAH and simply hand the superior court the authority…with zero authority from the federal government.  This is like a teenage boy asking for permission to go to Billy Bob’s house, but really sneaking out to go see Betty Lou.

Well, Betty Lou, here we come…