About 64% of adults in a Medicaid-enrolled family in December said they did not know they may lose coverage once pandemic-era policy ends and eligibility checks resume on April 1, according to a survey from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The percentage of respondents who said they heard nothing about upcoming Medicaid renewals rose from June, when 62% said they knew nothing about the changes, the survey found.
Awareness was low across the board regardless of geographic region or a state’s Medicaid expansion status, according to the survey.
The federal government barred states from resuming Medicaid eligibility checks amid widespread job losses and other challenges during the pandemic.
Once eligibility checks resume, as many as 18 million people are expected to lose coverage, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
About 7 million of those people are expected to gain coverage through the individual markets or employer-sponsored plans, though 8 million will not and will likely become uninsured, according to a report from Moody’s Investor Services.
Awareness levels regarding looming redetermination checks remained low and varied only slightly regionally, the report found.
Similarly, above 60% of respondents reported unawareness of Medicaid redeterminations both in Medicaid expansion states and those that haven’t expanded Medicaid, “which suggests the need for widespread outreach and education efforts,” the report said.
“Reducing information gaps about the change is a critical first step,” the report said.
In non-expansion states, people will need help learning about navigating marketplace options, while in expansion states they’ll need information on how to stay enrolled, the report said.
The suspension of eligibility checks led Medicaid membership to rise substantially during the pandemic, growing from 70.7 million members in February 2020 to 90.9 million in September, according to the Moody’s Investor Services report.
The end of the policy is expected to deal a blow to payers that have touted recent enrollment growth while hospitals could see more self-pay patients and “higher bad debt” for facilities, the Moody’s report said.
As the U.S. prepares to end the COVID-19 public health emergency, hospitals are facing a major cut in Medicare payments used to treat patients diagnosed with the disease.
Since January 2020, hospitals nationwide have received a 20 percent increase in the Medicare payment rate through the hospital inpatient prospective payment system to treat COVID-19 patients — that policy ends May 11.
The sunsetting of the three-year policy is a key concern for the AHA because of its financial implication for hospitals already struggling with increased labor costs and inflation.
From January 2020 to November 2021, payments for the 1 million traditional Medicare patients hospitalized with COVID-19 totaled $23.4 billion, or more than $24,000 per patient, according to lobbying and law firm Brownstein.
The end of the policy also has the potential to increase medical costs for patients hospitalized with COVID-19. If patients must pay higher costs for COVID-19-related services, they may be less inclined to get tested or even seek treatment.
“It means there will be less testing in this country, and likely less treatment because not everyone can afford it,” Jose Figueroa, MD, assistant professor of health policy and management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told Time Jan. 31. “Will this change the trajectory of the pandemic? It’s something we are going to have to watch.”
As of Feb. 8, the nation’s seven-day COVID-19 case average was 40,404, a 1 percent decrease from the previous week’s average. The rate of decrease has slowed in the last two weeks — the CDC’s last weekly report published Feb. 3 reported a 6.7 percent drop in cases.
The seven-day hospitalization average for Feb. 1-7 was 3,665, a 6.2 percent decrease from the previous week’s average and down from an 8.4 percent drop in cases a week prior.
This week, the Biden administration released a roadmap for implementing three new drug pricing pilots through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI). These models seek to offer certain common generic drugs to Medicare beneficiaries for two dollars per month, test new ways for how Medicaid pays for expensive cell and gene therapies, and explore alternative reimbursement models for drugs that receive accelerated Food and Drug Administration approval.
The Gist: On the heels of last week’s State of the Union Address, the announcement of these pilots exemplifies the kind of health policy efforts we expect across the remainder of President Biden’s current term: smaller, incremental initiatives to curb healthcare costs at the margins.
But given that all these initiatives have lengthy timelines, in part to allow for industry input, they will likely require the support of the next administration, Biden’s or otherwise, to reach full implementation.
Responding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey for 2011-2021, an article in The Atlantic attempts to make sense of the historic levels of anxiety and depression being reported by today’s teens, especially girls and those who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (the survey does not track trans identity).
The survey, which is the definitive measure of youth behavior and mental health in the country, found nearly 60 percent of teenage girls reported “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness”, and that the share contemplating suicide grew by 50 percent since 2011. The article explores several possible drivers, including a pandemic-induced effect that could subside, pervasive exposure to social media, the normalization of discussing mental distress, and the outcome of growing up with ongoing crises like school shootings and climate change. But none of the explanations fully accounts for the alarming crisis, nor do any of them present easily workable solutions.
The Gist: Echoing the drug overdose epidemic, the unfolding crisis in teen mental health is difficult for providers to address because many victims don’t access healthcare services until their conditions deteriorate to the point of requiring hospitalization, often from a suicide attempt or an overdose.
And when teenagers in mental health crisis present to emergency departments, hospitals are often forced to board them for days,as the number of psychiatric treatment facilities for teens has dropped by 30 percent from 2012 to 2020.
These data should be a call for providers to focus more upstream diagnosis and care, by partnering with children, families, schools, and other community organizations.
President Joe Biden last night highlighted several healthcare priorities during his State of the Union address, including efforts to reduce drug costs, a universal cap on insulin prices, healthcare coverage, and more.
In his speech, Biden acknowledged the progress the country has made with COVID-19 over the last few years.
“Two years ago, COVID had shut down our businesses, closed our schools, and robbed us of so much,” he said. “Today, COVID no longer controls our lives.”
Although Biden noted that the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) will come to an end soon, he said the country should remain vigilant and called for more funds from Congress to “monitor dozens of variants and support new vaccines and treatments.”
The Inflation Reduction Act
Biden highlighted several provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which passed last year, that aim to reduce healthcare costs for millions of Americans.
“You know, we pay more for prescription drugs than any major country on earth,” he said. “Big Pharma has been unfairly charging people hundreds of dollars — and making record profits.”
Under the IRA, Medicare is now allowed to negotiate the prices of certain prescription drugs, and out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries are capped at $2,000 per year. Insulin costs for Medicare beneficiaries are also capped at $35 a month.
“Bringing down prescription drug costs doesn’t just save seniors money,” Biden said. “It will cut the federal deficit, saving tax payers hundreds of billions of dollars on the prescription drugs the government buys for Medicare.”
Caps on insulin costs for all Americans
Although the IRA limits costs for seniors on Medicare, Biden called for the policy to be made universal for all Americans. According to a 2022 study, over 1.3 million Americans skip, delay purchasing, or ration their insulin supply due to costs.
“[T]here are millions of other Americans who are not on Medicare, including 200,000 young people with Type I diabetes who need insulin to save their lives,” Biden said. “… Let’s cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month for every American who needs it.”
With the end of the COVID-19 PHE, HHS estimates that around 15 million people will lose health benefits as states begin the process to redetermine eligibility.
The opioid crisis
Biden also addressed the ongoing opioid crisis in the United States and noted the impact of fentanyl, in particular.
“Fentanyl is killing more than 70,000 Americans a year,” he said. “Let’s launch a major surge to stop fentanyl production, sale, and trafficking, with more drug detection machines to inspect cargo and stop pills and powder at the border.”
He also highlighted efforts by to expand access to effective opioid treatments. According to a White House fact sheet, some initiatives include expanding access to naloxone and other harm reduction interventions at public health departments, removing barriers to prescribing treatments for opioid addiction, and allowing buprenorphine and methadone to be prescribed through telehealth.
Access to abortion
In his speech, Biden called on Congress to “restore” abortion rights after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year.
“The Vice President and I are doing everything we can to protect access to reproductive healthcare and safeguard patient privacy. But already, more than a dozen states are enforcing extreme abortion bans,” Biden said.
He also added that he will veto a national abortion ban if it happens to pass through Congress.
Progress on cancer
Biden also highlighted the Cancer Moonshot, an initiative launched last year aimed at advancing cancer treatment and prevention.
“Our goal is to cut the cancer death rate by at least 50% over the next 25 years,” Biden said. “Turn more cancers from death sentences into treatable diseases. And provide more support for patients and families.”
According to a White House fact sheet, the Cancer Moonshot has created almost 30 new federal programs, policies, and resources to help increase screening rates, reduce preventable cancers, support patients and caregivers and more.
“For the lives we can save and for the lives we have lost, let this be a truly American moment that rallies the country and the world together and proves that we can do big things,” Biden said. “… Let’s end cancer as we know it and cure some cancers once and for all.”
Biden commended the fact that “more American have health insurance now than ever in history,” noting that 16 million people signed up for plans in the Affordable Care Act marketplace this past enrollment period.
In addition, Biden noted that a law he signed last year helped millions of Americans save $800 a year on their health insurance premiums. Currently, this benefit will only run through 2025, but Biden said that we should “make those savings permanent, and expand coverage to those left off Medicaid.”
Advisory Board’s take
Our questions about the Medicaid cliff
President Biden extolled economic optimism in the State of the Union address, touting the lowest unemployment rate in five decades. With job creation on the rise following the incredible job losses at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still a question of whether the economy will continue to work for those who face losing Medicaid coverage at some point in the next year.
The public health emergency (PHE) is scheduled to end on May 11. During the PHE, millions of Americans were forced into Medicaid enrollment because of job losses. Federal legislation prevented those new enrollees from losing medical insurance. As a result, the percentage of uninsured Americans remained around 8%. The safety net worked.
Starting April 1, state Medicaid plans will begin to end coverage for those who are no longer eligible. We call that the Medicaid Cliff, although operationally, it will look more like a landslide. Currently, state Medicaid regulators and health plans are still trying to figure out exactly how to manage the administrative burden of processing millions of financial eligibility records. The likely outcome is that Medicaid rolls will decrease exponentially over the course of six months to a year as eligibility is redetermined on a rolling basis.
In the marketplace, there is a false presumption that all 15 million Medicaid members will seamlessly transition to commercial or exchange health plans. However, families with a single head of household, women with children under the age of six, and families in both very rural and impoverished urban areas will be less likely to have access to commercial insurance or be able to afford federal exchange plans. Low unemployment and higher wages could put these families in the position of making too much to qualify for Medicaid, but still not making enough to afford the health plans offered by their employers (if their employer offers health insurance). Even with the expansion of Medicaid and exchange subsidies, it, is possible that the rate of uninsured families could rise.
For providers, this means the payer mix in their market will likely not return to the pre-pandemic levels. For managed care organizations with state Medicaid contracts, a loss of members means a loss of revenue. A loss of Medicaid revenue could have a negative impact on programs built to address health equity and social determinants of health (SDOH), which will ultimately impact public health indicators.
For those of us who have worked in the public health and Medicaid space, the pandemic exposed the cracks in the healthcare ecosystem to a broader audience. Discussions regarding how to address SDOH, health equity, and behavioral health gaps are now critical, commonplace components of strategic business planning for all stakeholders across our industry’s infrastructure.
But what happens when Medicaid enrollment drops, and revenues decrease? Will these discussions creep back to the “nice to have” back burners of strategic plans?
Understand the health care industry’s most urgent challenges—and greatest opportunities.
The health care industry is facing an increasingly tough business climate dominated by increasing costs and prices, tightening margins and capital, staffing upheaval, and state-level policymaking. These urgent, disruptive market forces mean that leaders must navigate an unusually high number of short-term crises.
But these near-term challenges also offer significant opportunities. The strategic choices health care leaders make now will have an outsized impact—positive or negative—on their organization’s long-term goals, as well as the equitability, sustainability, and affordability of the industry as a whole.
This briefing examines the biggest market forces to watch, the key strategic decisions that health care organizations must make to influence how the industry operates, and the emerging disruptions that will challenge the traditional structures of the entire industry.
Preview the insights below and download the full executive briefing (using the link above) now to learn the top 16 insights about the state of the health care industry today.
Preview the insights
Part 1 | Today’s market environment includes an overwhelming deluge of crises—and they all command strategic attention
The converging financial pressures of elevated input costs, a volatile macroeconomic climate, and the delayed impact of inflation on health care prices are exposing the entire industry to even greater scrutiny over affordability. Keep reading on pg. 6
The clinical workforce shortage is not temporary. It’s been building to a structural breaking point for years. Keep reading on pg. 8
Demand for health care services is growing more varied and complex—and pressuring the limited capacity of the health care industry when its bandwidth is most depleted. Keep reading on pg. 10
Insurance coverage shifted dramatically to publicly funded managed care. But Medicaid enrollment is poised to disperse unevenly after the public health emergency expires, while Medicare Advantage will grow (and consolidate). Keep reading on pg. 12
Part II | Competition for strategic assets continues at a rapid pace—influencing how and where patient care is delivered.
The current crisis conditions of hospital systems mask deeper vulnerabilities: rapidly eroding power to control procedural volumes and uncertainty around strategic acquisition and consolidation. Keep reading on pg. 15
Health care giants—especially national insurers, retailers, and big tech entrants—are building vertical ecosystems (and driving an asset-buying frenzy in the process). Keep reading on pg. 17
As employment options expand, physicians will determine which owners and partners benefit from their talent, clinical influence, and strategic capabilities—but only if these organizations can create an integrated physician enterprise. Keep reading on pg. 19
Broader, sustainable shifts to home-based care will require most care delivery organizations to focus on scaling select services. Keep reading on pg. 21
A flood of investment has expanded telehealth technology and changed what interactions with patients are possible. This has opened up new capabilities for coordinating care management or competing for consumer attention. Keep reading on pg. 23
Health care organizations are harnessing data and incentives to curate consumers choices—at both the service-specific and ecosystem-wide levels. Keep reading on pg. 25
Part III | Emerging structural disruptions require leaders to reckon with impacts to future business sustainability.
For value-based care to succeed outside of public programs, commercial plans and providers must coalesce around a sustainable risk-based payment approach that meets employers’ experience and cost needs. Keep reading on pg. 28
Industry pioneers are taking steps to integrate health equity into quality metrics. This could transform the health care business model, or it could relegate equity initiatives to just another target on a dashboard. Keep reading on pg. 30
Unprecedented behavioral health needs are hitting an already fragmented, marginalized care infrastructure. Leaders across all sectors will need to make difficult compromises to treat and pay for behavioral health like we do other complex, chronic conditions. Keep reading on pg. 32
As the population ages, the fragile patchwork of government payers, unpaid caregivers, and strained nursing homes is ill-equipped to provide sustainable, equitable senior care. This is putting pressure on Medicare Advantage plans to ultimately deliver results. Keep reading on pg. 34
The enormous pipeline of specialized high-cost therapies in development will see limited clinical use unless the entire industry prepares for paradigm shifts in evidence evaluation, utilization management, and financing. Keep reading on pg. 36
Self-funded employers, who are now liable for paying “reasonable” amounts, may contest the standard business practices of brokers and plans to avoid complex legal battles with poor optics. Keep reading on pg. 38
The rate decline was highest among those who had incomes between 100% and 200% of the federal poverty level. Those in traditionally uncovered demographies, such as people who are Latino, American Indian/Alaska native and those who don’t speak English, saw larger gains in coverage.
Half of the top 10 states for coverage gains expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act between 2019 and 2021. The leading state, Maine, reached a 7.1% uninsured population in 2021, dropping from 10.2% in 2019. Officials shifted to a state-based exchange for the 2022 plan year.
“Many of the areas with the greatest coverage gains since 2019 had higher than average uninsured rates in 2021, suggesting progress in narrowing geographic disparities but still with substantial gaps remaining; the lack of Medicaid expansion in 11 states plays a key ongoing role in coverage disparities across states,” the report authors wrote.
The state with the largest increase in uninsured people was Alabama, which reached 12.5% in 2021 compared to 12.1% in 2019.
In addition to Medicaid expansion, other policies that helped those receive coverage include increased premium tax subsidies under the American Rescue Plan.
Also helping is the Medicaid continuous coverage provision, which has barred states from kicking people off rolls during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
That policy is set to end in April, however. Researchers have said that as many as 15 million to 18 million people could be affected.
States are taking some steps to help those eligible remain in the program. Most states plan to update enrollee mailing addresses and follow up with those people when action is recovered to maintain coverage, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation report.
Forty-one states said it will take up to 12 months to process renewals, KFF said.
Over 1.8 million more people enrolled in marketplace coverage compared to last year — a 13% increase, and the most amount of plan selections of any year since the launch of the ACA marketplace a decade ago, according to the CMS. The record-breaking enrollment numbers include 3.6 million first-time marketplace enrollees.
However, some coverage protections rely on the federal COVID-19 public health emergency status, which will expire without an extension in mid-April. Medicaid enrollment numbers are expected to drop at the end of the public health emergency, with as many as 18 million enrollees projected to lose Medicaid coverage, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The end of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency will bring the largest health coverage changes since implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act’s continuous coverage requirement prevents state Medicaid agencies from disenrolling people during the COVID-19 public health emergency. However, when the declaration of the emergency expires—currently scheduled for April 2023—states will resume normal eligibility determinations. This could result in millions losing access to affordable health coverage through Medicaid.
18 million people could lose Medicaid coverage when the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) ends, according to a new analysis.
While many who are currently enrolled in Medicaid will transition to other coverage options, nearly 4 million people (3.8M) will become completely uninsured.
19 states will see their uninsurance rates spike by more than 20 percent.
3.2 million children will transition from Medicaid to separate Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) health plans.
State Medicaid officials and policymakers must continue to ensure that individuals currently enrolled in Medicaid are aware of the approaching end of the public health emergency, and that they have a plan to maintain or find new health coverage through their employer, the federal healthcare Marketplace, or Medicaid.
After COVID fears and shutdowns led consumers to delay care early in the pandemic, persistently high inflation over the past year has further suppressed volumes.
As the graphic above illustrates, the average deductible for individual coverage has grown by over 140 percent since 2010, exposing consumers to an increasing portion of healthcare costs, and prompting economists to reevaluate the adage that healthcare is “recession-proof”.
This year, that trend collided with an inflation spike that outpaced wage gains by two percent. Faced with diminished purchasing power, households are making budget tradeoffs which explicitly pit healthcare against other essential household needs.
For some, this cost-cutting impulse even extends to preventative screenings—required to be covered without cost-sharing—when consumers’ financial concerns drive them to avoid healthcare altogether.
While the latest inflation report suggests price increases are moderating, fears of a broader recession persist, making it critical for health systems and physicians to communicate with patients, encouraging them to continue to access preventive care, educating them about lower cost care options, and helping them prioritize treatment that should not be put off.