Capitol Correspondence - 07.01.19

U.S. Rep Challenges Administration on Pending Medicaid Block Grant Guidance

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U.S. Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) sent U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar a letter requesting documentation on how HHS is developing Medicaid guidance to states on crafting Medicaid block grants administratively. Additionally, he questioned the legality of the process given Medicaid’s mandate to provide coverage to eligible individuals. Congressman Pallone is Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has oversight of Medicaid issues. The guidance is not yet publicly available, but is undergoing the final stage of review at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Because Medicaid is the main program funding supports for people with disabilities, ANCOR has been monitoring this issue and recently met with OMB staff to request opportunities for public review and comment before the guidance is released. We will keep members informed of opportunities for action as they arise.

For the convenience of our readers, we have summarized the general landscape surrounding the guidance below:

  • As stated above, the proposed guidance is currently under review at OMB. ANCOR first became aware of this proposal in January when Politico scooped that the Administration was seeking to by-pass Congress on Medicaid block grants.
  • Last week, Politico Pulse reported that Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma travelled to a gathering in California of Republican Governors Association staff to discuss multiple topics, including Medicaid.
  • Earlier this month the state of Alaska commissioned a study “analyzing the prospect of implementing block grants”. Previously, Governor of Alaska Mike Dunleavy stated in a letter to the President that CMS asked his state to be the first to try administering Medicaid block grants.
  • Following media coverage of Governor Dunleavy’s letter, Tennessee requested to be the first state to test Medicaid block grants.
  • Democratic members of Congress have responded with concern – in addition to U.S. Representative Pallone’s letter, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) also wrote to HHS on the topic.