Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Congress, too, is mystified by long-delayed Equal Access regs
Members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Senate Committee on Finance sent a letter today to Secretary Burwell, urging HHS to issue the Equal Access regulations that have been in limbo since 2011. This is an important and much-needed call for action in the wake of Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Center, which shut down private rights of action for Medicaid providers seeking fair reimbursement from states in federal courts. The letter explicitly recognizes the harm that the Court's recent decision will inflict on the Medicaid program, which I've written about on this blog (most recently here) in the context of both Armstrong and Douglas v. Independent Living Center.
Though the draft regulations were not perfect, and in fact would benefit from putting some real teeth into HHS's review of states' payment decisions on equal access to care for Medicaid beneficiaries, they would at least ensure that HHS is actively overseeing states' payment rate decisions. Currently, states are able to change rates with very little intervention from HHS, which often involves decreasing payment rates to balance state budgets. Now that the Court has tasked HHS with enforcing the equal access provision, rather than the providers who HHS admittedly relied on to raise flags about states' low payment rates, HHS must complete the draft regulations. Perhaps this direct plea from members of key committees will refocus HHS's attention on these important regulations.