Status of higher payment for primary care under Medicaid

Medicaid in an Era of Health & Delivery System Reform: Results from a 50-State Medicaid Budget Survey for State Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015

By Vernon K. Smith, Kathleen Gifford, Eileen Ellis, Robin Rudowitz and Laura Snyder
Kaiser Family Foundation, October 14, 2014

Primary Care Payments

The ACA included a provision to increase Medicaid payment rates for primary care services to Medicare rates from January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2014. The federal government funded 100 percent of the difference between Medicaid rates that were in effect as of July 1, 2009 and the full Medicare rates for these two years. States were asked about their plans to extend this provision beyond December 31, 2014 (at regular FMAP rates). For states that have Medicaid rates for physician services that were already at or close to 100 percent of Medicare rates, this issue was not significant.

  • Twenty-two states indicated that they would not be continuing the primary care rate increase.
  • Fifteen states (Alaska, Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, and South Carolina) indicated that they will continue the higher rates at least partially if not fully. For example one state will provide a proportionate increase for all primary care physicians (half of the ACA rate increase); others plan to continue temporarily or target it to certain types of primary care.
  • Fourteen states indicated they had not yet made a decision on this policy and were still evaluating whether the enhanced rates had any impact on provider participation. Given the delayed implementation of the rate enhancement and the difficulty of attributing changes in provider enrollment and access to the enhanced payments, the impact of the increased rates is difficult to determine.


Primary Care Services under Managed Care Delivery Systems

Qs &As on the Increased Medicaid Payment for Primary Care CMS 2370-F - MANAGED CARE

The requirements under 42 CFR 438.804 specify that the states submit two methodologies to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for review and approval to implement this rule. How does approval of these methodologies impact the approval process for managed care contracts and rate packages for 2013?

Implementing regulations at 42 CFR 438.804 require states to submit to CMS a methodology for calculating the July 1, 2009, baseline rate for eligible primary care services and a methodology for calculating the rate differential eligible for 100 percent of Federal Financial Participation (FFP) by March 31, 2013. Further, 42 CFR 438.6 (c)(5)(vi) establishes Managed Care Organization (MCO), Prepaid Inpatient Health Plan (PHIP) or Prepaid Ambulatory Health Plan (PAHP) contract requirements to comply with this provision. It is CMS’s expectation that as soon as practicable after the State submits the required methodologies in 42 CFR 438.804 and receives CMS approval, the State will:

  1. submit revised actuarial certification documents reflecting the Medicare rate for eligible primary care services in their MCO, PIHP or PAHP capitation rates; and
  2. submit amendment(s) to this contract to ensure compliance with 42 CFR 438.6 (c)(5)(vi).

After CMS approval of the revised contract and rates, the MCO, PIHP or PAHP must direct the full amount of the enhanced payment to the eligible provider to reflect the enhanced payment effective January 1, 2013. Federal financial participation (FFP) is available at a rate of 100 percent for the portion of capitation rates attributable to these enhanced payments; however, receipt of the enhanced FFP is contingent upon the state’s successful completion of this process.


The final rule specified that states will need to recoup the enhanced payments made to non- eligible providers identified through the annual statistically valid sample. Must health plans follow the same procedure for non-eligible providers?

States must require health plans to recoup erroneous payments found through the sampled pools of providers, and in a number of states, this sample will include both FFS and managed care providers.

Are MCOs permitted to include amounts sufficient to account for the payment differential on expected utilization while still holding the sub-capitated primary care physicians at risk for some level of increase in utilization due to the higher rates? Or must MCOs remove the risk to primary care physicians for utilization to ensure that these physicians receive the increased amount for actual experience?

The purpose of section 1202 of the Affordable Care Act and the final rule is to ensure access to and utilization of beneficial primary care services. Towards that goal, eligible primary care physicians must receive the full benefit of the enhanced payment at the Medicare rate for eligible services rendered. If a Medicaid managed care health plan retains sub-capitation arrangements, the health plan would be obligated to provide additional payments to providers to ensure that every unit of primary care services provided is reimbursed at the Medicare rate.



By Don McCanne, MD

As the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was being crafted, it was recognized that the expansion of coverage under Medicaid could result in greater access problems because of the low Medicaid payment rates and the lack of willing providers. In order to improve access, at least to primary care, it was decided to increase Medicaid primary care payment rates to the same level as Medicare for the years 2013 and 2014. As with so many of the ACA provisions, this seemingly simple solution has proven to be more complex.

Before and during this transition most states were moving many or all of their Medicaid patients into managed care programs. So the government had to issue guidelines on how to move enhanced Medicaid primary care payments into managed care organizations receiving capitation payments, and to be sure that these enhanced payments were directed to the eligible primary care providers (more administrative excesses). Although we are near the end of the two year period in which primary care payments are enhanced, news reports suggest that confusion and delays have not been entirely resolved.

Although these enhanced payments were considered to be crucial in ensuring adequate participation of primary care providers, twenty-two states have indicated that they would not be continuing the primary care rate increases. Fifteen states have decided to continue, though many at lower rates and perhaps only temporarily. Fourteen states are undecided. “Given the delayed implementation of the rate enhancement and the difficulty of attributing changes in provider enrollment and access to the enhanced payments, the impact of the increased rates is difficult to determine.”

Medicaid is a welfare program, and, as such, will continue to be chronically underfunded. Medicaid patients frequently have difficulties accessing primary care services, and the continued underfunding will perpetuate that problem. Access to specialized services is even more limited because of the very low participation rates of specialists.

Single payer would eliminate these injustices since we would all have the same high-quality program - an improved Medicare for all.