September 12, 2008
THE LATEST ON CMS
Baucus & Co. need to get the CMS rule delayed!
Both New York AIDS advocates and New York state employees continued their fight this week to delay the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regulation that could cripple health care access for poor and disabled people—including tens of thousands living with HIV/AIDS—in 18 states who rely on outpatient Medicaid care.
The New York State Department of Health has been in regular contact with CMS; the latest from one insider is that CMS officials are receptive to New York's deep concerns about the regulation, which would reduce payment for outpatient Medicaid services to lower Medicare rates. The source speculated that there is only a "30 percent chance" that the White House's Office of Management and Budget will actually move forward on the CMS regulation.
"CMS is coming around to the fact that New York has a complicated health system and is trying to work to give New York flexibility," said one of the Governor's staff. But, that person noted, "We've been burned by the administration many times."
Working with CMS isn't the only solution to the looming policy catastrophe. A Congressional fix would do the trick as well ( (although Bush could always veto. The CMS reg was a compromise attachment to the last Iraq appropriations bill).. New York representatives have signaled support for suspending the reg, in part because New York could stand to lose $350 million in federal funding to organizations providing outpatient care.
Legislators in other states need to join them. Despite the fact that 18 states could lose out —Alaska, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin—most of the hardcore lobbying has come from just New York, California and various hospital associations. Some state governments in Republican-controlled governor's offices and representatives are loathe to lobby for more Medicaid dollars.
Housing Works clients and advocates went down to D.C. to speak with representatives of other states affected, including Reps. Tommy Baldwin (D-WI), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jesse Jackson, Jr (D-IL) and Bart Gordon (D-TN).
Housing Works Women's Health Center client Alison Richards explained to Congressional staffers how important services at the Women's Health Center were to her. Richards, chair of the client advisory board, uses the facility for dental and medical treatment, and considers it a second home. "We need to keep this place open!" she said. "I need the Women's Center."
No staffers seemed aware of the CMS issues but said they'd look into it.
The most important reps to contact are the finance bigwigs Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) and Rep. John Dingell (D-MI). A Baucus aide told the Update that Chairman Baucus opposes the CMS rule and would look for avenues in the Senate to prevent it from taking effect.
So what can you do?
Contact the White House at 202-456-1111
Contact your reps (if you're not a New Yorker) at 800-828-0498 (Congressional switchboard).