Sylvia Burwell Is the New Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS): The U.S. Senate approved Sylvia Burwell’s nomination to be the next HHS secretary with a vote of 78-17 on June 5. Burwell was sworn in as secretary on June 9.
HHS Announces Navigator Funding Opportunity: On June 10, HHS released the Navigator grant funding opportunity for federally facilitated marketplaces (FFM). HHS is awarding up to $60 million in grants for the 2014-2015 open enrollment period. Last year, HHS awarded $54 million. Letters of intent are due June 30, 2014, grant applications are due on July 10, 2014, and grants will be awarded on September 8, 2014.
April’s Monthly Medicaid Enrollment Report: On June 4, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the April enrollment report for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). More than one million more Americans enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP in April, bringing the total increase in Medicaid and CHIP enrollment to six million since October 2013. Medicaid/CHIP enrollment grew by 5.2 million (+15 percent) in states that expanded Medicaid; in states that did not expand Medicaid, Medicaid/CHIP enrollment grew by 800,000 (+3.3 percent).
Some States Releasing Proposed Plan Rates for Next Year: Several states, including Connecticut and Maryland, have released insurers’ proposed changes to rates for next year’s marketplace plans. These rates still have to be reviewed and are not final.
Application Inconsistencies Remain for Some FFM Consumers: When applying for coverage through the FFM, some consumers’ income or immigration status did not match information in federal databases. These consumers could still enroll but were asked to submit additional documentation within 90 days. The Associated Press reported, and CMS confirmed, that 2.1 million enrollees’ still have application discrepancies. CMS is reaching out to these individuals to remind them to submit additional documentation. CMS has a blog post outlining the steps to resolve a data discrepancy and indicates that they will be flexible about the 90-day deadline this year. Consumers who fail to resolve inconsistencies will not lose coverage, but those with incorrect income information who are receiving financial help to purchase coverage may be at risk of having to pay money back at tax time.
Medicaid Backlog Slowly Improving: According to Kaiser Health News, more than 1.7 million Americans are still waiting for their applications for Medicaid and CHIP coverage to be processed. The size of the backlog varies by state (from hundreds of thousands to no backlog at all) and stems from an increase in demand due to Medicaid expansion and limited systems and staff capacity to handle this influx, as well as technology issues that inhibited transfers between FFMs and states’ Medicaid agencies. The technology transfer issue has been resolved everywhere except Alaska, Kansas, and Maine, and states are working to clear the backlogged applications.