More About Jesse Cross-Call

Jesse Cross-Call

Jesse Cross-Call is a Policy Analyst in the Health Policy division of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In this role he examines issues related to the implementation of health reform and provides information and technical assistance to state and local officials, providers, and nonprofit organizations who are working on issues related to expanding coverage to the uninsured through Medicaid and the new health reform marketplaces.

Full bio and recent public appearances | Research archive at CBPP.org


Indiana Should Revise Medicaid Waiver Proposal

October 17, 2014 at 11:01 am

Indiana has proposed to expand Medicaid and extend health coverage to as many as 374,000 uninsured Hoosiers through the Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP) 2.0.  As currently designed, however, the proposal would create barriers to coverage for low-income individuals and cause substantial numbers of people to remain uninsured, as we explain in a new paper.  The state should modify its proposal to ensure that all newly eligible adults are actually able to participate and receive necessary health care services on a timely basis.

HIP 2.0 would be a new demonstration project, or “waiver,” that incorporates features from the state’s existing Medicaid waiver, which was approved prior to the enactment of health reform and offers limited coverage to about 40,000 low-income adults.

Although Medicaid waivers give states additional flexibility in how they design their Medicaid programs, the Medicaid statute requires that waivers must test new approaches to Medicaid while promoting the program’s objective of delivering health care services to vulnerable populations that can’t otherwise afford care.  As proposed, HIP 2.0 falls short of meeting this standard in several important respects: aspects of the plan would almost certainly result in substantial numbers of low-income people being unable to receive health insurance and access care for significant periods of time.  Indiana should modify those parts of the proposal to ensure that newly eligible Medicaid beneficiaries can actually enroll in coverage and receive necessary health care services.

HIP 2.0 does drop some problematic features of the state’s existing Medicaid waiver, such as a cap on the number of enrollees and annual and lifetime dollar limits on coverage, to comply with changes that the health reform law made to Medicaid.  But the state is seeking approval to maintain certain other features of its current waiver that are inconsistent with the Medicaid expansion, such as charging premiums to people with little income and delaying the start date for coverage.  A substantial body of research, including Indiana’s own experience under its existing Medicaid waiver, demonstrates that charging premiums to people with low incomes discourages them from enrolling in and maintaining coverage.

Click here to read the full paper.

Hospitals Benefiting From Medicaid Expansion, Report Finds

September 5, 2014 at 10:52 am

Hospitals in states that have expanded Medicaid as part of health reform are seeing a large drop in uninsured patients and higher-than-expected revenues, a new report from the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Health Research Institute finds.  It’s the latest evidence of the Medicaid expansion’s benefits for states, their businesses, and their residents.

Examining financial data for the first half of the year from the country’s three largest health care providers, PwC found a 47 percent drop in admissions of uninsured patients at affiliated hospitals in Medicaid expansion states.  This suggests a sizable drop in uncompensated care — consistent with a nationwide survey of hospitals by the Colorado Hospital Association after the first quarter of the year.  PwC also found that the rise in the share of patients with health coverage boosted providers’ revenues even more than they had anticipated.

Meanwhile, the Urban Institute projects that hospitals in the 23 states that have not yet expanded Medicaid (see map) will lose out on $157 billion in reimbursements between 2013 and 2022.

This PwC report is one of several indicators of the growing gap between states that have expanded Medicaid and those that haven’t.  The Medicaid expansion is driving large gains in health coverage, while states that haven’t expanded risk forgoing those gains as well as millions of dollars in savings.

Wisconsin and Wyoming Tally Fiscal Cost of Rejecting Health Reform’s Medicaid Expansion

August 28, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Recent budget reports from Wisconsin and Wyoming show that their failure to adopt health reform’s Medicaid expansion is costing them millions of dollars in forgone budget savings.

In Wisconsin, the legislature’s nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates that the expansion, which covers non-elderly adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the poverty line, would have saved the state $206 million in the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years combined.

Governor Scott Walker chose instead to extend Medicaid coverage to adults only up to 100 percent of the poverty line through a separate waiver.  This means that the federal government is paying for the expanded coverage at the state’s regular Medicaid matching rate of 59 percent, rather than the much higher matching rate for health reform’s Medicaid expansion.  (For states that expand to 138 percent of poverty, the federal government will pick up 100 percent of the cost through 2016 and no less than 90 percent thereafter.)  The difference in matching rates is the main reason for the $206 million in forgone savings.

Wisconsin could still save between $261 million and $315 million over the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years by adopting the expansion during next year’s legislative session, the report estimates.  Gov. Walker has justified his opposition to it by arguing that the federal government would ultimately renege on its financial commitment, but those fears are unfounded.

In Wyoming, the state health department projects that the Medicaid expansion would save the state $50 million a year on other health programs for low-income uninsured residents.  As a result, Governor Matt Mead is moving to advance the Medicaid expansion during the coming legislative session.  More than 17,000 uninsured residents would gain access to coverage under the expansion, the Urban Institute estimates.

The 27 states (including Washington, D.C.) that have adopted the Medicaid expansion are already seeing dramatic gains in health coverage and reductions in the cost of providing uncompensated care to the uninsured.  Wisconsin, Wyoming, and the other 22 states that have not done so could realize similar benefits.

States Seeking to Expand Medicaid Through Waivers Can Learn From Arkansas, Iowa, and Michigan

August 22, 2014 at 11:05 am

The federal government is considering proposals from Pennsylvania and Indiana to adopt health reform’s Medicaid expansion through a demonstration project, or waiver, and New Hampshire will soon submit its own.  The experience of the three states — Arkansas, Iowa, and Michigan — that have expanded through a waiver suggests that while the federal government will work with states to craft reasonable expansion plans, there are limits to the programmatic flexibility it will grant, as we explain in a new paper.

Waivers provide states with additional flexibility in how they operate their Medicaid programs, but they cannot be used to impose onerous requirements that make it difficult for eligible individuals to gain and maintain Medicaid coverage.  This principle has informed how the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has responded to waiver proposals so far.

Among the takeaways:

  • States may not disenroll people with incomes below the poverty line for non-payment of premiums.  While Iowa has received approval to charge beneficiaries with incomes between 50 and 100 percent of the poverty line modest premiums starting in 2015, the state will waive premiums for individuals who complete health risk and wellness assessments or attest to financial hardships.  Importantly, the state cannot disenroll individuals from coverage if they do not pay their premiums.
  • States may not require individuals to pay cost-sharing charges above what is allowed under Medicaid rules.  Medicaid cost-sharing rules provide states with significant flexibility while providing significant protections for beneficiaries that are intended to minimize barriers to necessary health care services.  The rules include special protections barring cost-sharing for children and pregnant women and for certain services such as family planning, emergency services, and maternity care.  People with incomes above the poverty line may be charged higher amounts, and providers cannot deny services to people with incomes below the poverty line who cannot afford to pay.  States must apply these protections to the newly eligible adults regardless of whether states expand Medicaid through a waiver.
  • States may not overly restrict certain benefits.  States have significant flexibility regarding benefits for newly eligible adults and can largely align their benefits with the benefits that private market plans provide.  Still, HHS has provided very limited waivers of Medicaid benefits.  And in Arkansas and Iowa, which are enrolling some or most of their expansion populations in private plans offered in the health insurance marketplaces, HHS has required that states augment marketplace benefits to ensure beneficiaries have access to the same benefits than if they were enrolled in regular Medicaid.
  • States can’t condition Medicaid eligibility on employment or participation in work search activities.  In December 2013, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett proposed a Medicaid expansion waiver that would require anyone working fewer than 20 hours a week to register with the state’s unemployment compensation program and engage in 12 work search activities per month to remain eligible for Medicaid coverage.  Those judged not to be in compliance would have their health coverage revoked.  Gov. Corbett subsequently submitted a revised proposal to HHS that would charge beneficiaries differential premiums based on whether they are working or engaged in work search activities.  In response to Pennsylvania’s proposal, HHS has indicated that it is unlikely to approve waivers that condition either Medicaid eligibility or premium amounts on compliance with work search or other work-related activities.

Click here to read the full paper.

Federal Medicaid Matching Rates Have Remained Stable, New Study Shows

August 14, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Some state policymakers opposed to health reform’s Medicaid expansion continue to argue that the federal government will likely renege on its commitment to permanently pick up nearly all of the cost.  Some assert that Congress frequently changes the formula that determines what share of states’ Medicaid costs the federal government will cover (also known as the FMAP).  As we noted in February, that’s false, and a new report from the Urban Institute concurs.

The report finds that policymakers have only cut the FMAP once, in 1981, when President Reagan and Congress enacted a temporary cut.  The most recent FMAP changes were temporary increases to give states fiscal relief during the past two economic downturns.

States are headed down divergent paths based on whether they have expanded Medicaid.  The 27 states (including the District of Columbia, see map) that have taken up the Medicaid expansion are experiencing large gains in health coverage.  As a result, hospitals are providing much less uncompensated care than just a year ago.

Unfounded concerns of a future drop in the federal matching are no reason for the remaining states to stay on the sidelines and miss out on the many benefits of expansion.

Medicaid Expansion Decisions Leading States Down Divergent Paths

July 16, 2014 at 2:24 pm

As a growing number of reports increasingly make clear, a state’s decision whether to expand Medicaid as part of health reform has real-life effects on its residents and its businesses.  In the 26 states and the District of Columbia that have expanded Medicaid (see map), the positive benefits are already playing out.  Here’s some of the latest information:

  • Hospitals are providing less uncompensated care.  In Arizona, hospitals reported that the Medicaid expansion is the chief reason for a 30 percent decline in the amount of uncompensated care they have provided so far this year, compared with a year ago.  The Colorado Hospital Association found a similar decline in charity care through April when it surveyed hospitals in 15 states that have expanded Medicaid and 15 that have not.
  • Medicaid expansion is driving large gains in health coverage.  A survey conducted by the Urban Institute finds that while the uninsurance rate is dropping across the country, states that have expanded Medicaid have seen a drop in the percentage of non-elderly adults who are uninsured by more than one-third — a 37.7 decline — while the uninsured rate fell by only 9 percent among states that haven’t expanded.  A survey from the Commonwealth Fund found a similar trend.

States can opt in to the Medicaid expansion at any time, allowing them to extend coverage to millions with the federal government picking up all of the cost of the expansion through 2016 (and nearly all of the cost in the years after), as we have written.  New Hampshire recently started accepting applications for its expansion, with coverage first available on August 15.

But states that refuse to expand leave a coverage gap, where people below the federal poverty line have income too high for Medicaid under prior eligibility rules but too low to qualify for federal subsidies to purchase coverage through the marketplaces.  This means we’re likely to see more stories as in Tennessee where, due to the coverage gap, a couple separated so the wife’s income would be low enough to maintain her Medicaid coverage.

Virginia Should Be Wary of New Medicaid Poll

April 25, 2014 at 1:56 pm

There’s a big reason to question the accuracy of a new poll of Virginians from Christopher Newport University, which the Washington Post and other news outlets have highlighted, that purports to find significantly less enthusiasm for expanding Medicaid as part of health reform.  Here’s what policymakers and media should keep in mind.

The pollsters say they found that Virginians’ support for expansion dropped from 56 percent on February 3 to 41 percent now.  What the pollsters do not fully acknowledge, however, is that they asked the question in two markedly different ways, making this a highly misleading, apples-to-oranges finding that doesn’t necessarily show a shift in public opinion:

  • On February 3 the question was asked:  Medicaid is a health care program for families and individuals with low income that is funded by both federal and state tax dollars. Currently, Virginia is faced with a decision about whether to expand the Medicaid program to cover an additional 400,000 mostly working poor Virginians who are uninsured. In general, do you support Medicaid expansion or oppose it?
  • But on April 24 poll the question was asked:  In [the Medicaid expansion] debate, the Democrats propose to subsidize private insurance for 400,000 uninsured and low income Virginians by using federal Medicaid money that would otherwise not come to Virginia. Republicans oppose this expansion because they fear the federal Medicaid money will not come as promised, and also say the current Medicaid program has too much waste and abuse and needs reformed before it is expanded.

Thus, unlike in February, Virginians in the most recent poll were asked whether the state should expand Medicaid only after they were read the straw man argument that the federal government will renege on its commitment to fund nearly all the costs of the expansion.  As we have explained, the history of Medicaid’s financing shows that federal funding has remained remarkably steady for decades.

Virginia policymakers should not be swayed by a misleading poll when deciding whether to expand Medicaid.  They should instead keep in mind that the state’s own analysis found that expanding will save the state more than $1 billion through 2022.  For the state, and the 400,000 uninsured Virginians who stand to gain health coverage from the expansion, the expansion remains an incredibly good deal.

Two Takeaways From New Hampshire and Michigan’s Medicaid Expansions

March 31, 2014 at 11:40 am

New Hampshire’s legislature has passed and Governor Maggie Hassan has signed into law legislation that will expand Medicaid as part of health reform effective July 1.  This means that combined with Michigan, where expansion takes effect tomorrow, an additional 600,000 uninsured people will be newly eligible for Medicaid coverage.  It also means a majority of states have taken health reform’s Medicaid expansion, as our map shows.

For policymakers in Maine, Missouri, Utah, Virginia, and other states currently debating whether to expand, the news from New Hampshire and Michigan offers important lessons:

  • Federal officials are willing to work with states to craft reasonable expansion plans.  The legislation passed in New Hampshire directs state officials to pursue a demonstration project — often called a “waiver” — that would use Medicaid dollars to buy coverage for newly eligible beneficiaries through the marketplace.  If approved, this approach would be similar to those in place in Arkansas and Iowa.

    New Hampshire likely will gain federal approval for its demonstration project because it steered clear of onerous provisions being discussed in other states that would make it difficult, if not impossible, for people to gain and maintain coverage.  For example, policymakers in Pennsylvania and Missouri have discussed tying people’s Medicaid eligibility and premium obligations to whether they are working or actively looking for work.  Such provisions have no relation to the purpose of Medicaid, which is to provide health coverage to people with low incomes.

  • States can expand at any time, but the sooner, the better for states and the uninsured.  The Medicaid expansion is a great deal for states, but especially so from now through the end of 2016 while the federal government pays the entire cost of covering the newly eligible.  (The federal government will pay no less than 90 percent of the cost in the years thereafter.)  While New Hampshire’s proposed waiver will not take effect until January 1, 2016, newly eligible beneficiaries will be able to enroll in the state’s existing program on July 1 of this year.  This is a win for both the Granite State’s finances and for the uninsured.

Failing to Expand Medicaid Costs Individuals, Too

February 10, 2014 at 4:07 pm

We’ve written about the growing cost to states of not expanding Medicaid as part of health reform.  But let’s not forget that state policymakers’ decisions not to expand have a severe human cost, too, as an article in today’s Wall Street Journal makes clear.

The Journal details the plight of uninsured low-income workers in Alabama — one of the states that hasn’t expanded Medicaid — who are struggling to afford medications for chronic health conditions, or are forgoing needed care entirely because they lack health coverage.  These are some of the nearly 5 million individuals in 25 states caught in a “coverage gap” — with income too low to qualify for help buying private coverage through the new marketplaces and too high to qualify for Medicaid — that exists because their state has not expanded Medicaid (see chart).

While Alabama Governor Robert Bentley opposes the expansion, a growing number of policymakers in non-expansion states are realizing that it doesn’t have to be this way.  Utah Governor Gary Herbert has announced he will push to expand this year because “doing nothing is not an option.”  And lawmakers in Nebraska, New Hampshire, and a handful of other states are charting their own paths toward expansion.

The Medicaid expansion is a good financial deal for states, and they can expand with the knowledge that the federal financial commitment to the expansion is solid, as we’ve previously explained.  Today’s Journal makes it clear how much individuals stand to gain from expanding as well.

The Growing State Cost of Not Expanding Medicaid

January 16, 2014 at 10:37 am

Policymakers in some of the 25 states that haven’t expanded Medicaid as part of health reform (see map) are putting expansion at the top of this year’s legislative agenda.  The New Hampshire House passed an expansion bill on the first day of its session last week, for example, and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe advocated for expansion in his first address to lawmakers.  These policymakers are wise to prioritize the Medicaid expansion, as the costs of not expanding have begun to accrue:

  • States’ failure to expand has created a “coverage gap” containing nearly 5 million people.  People in this gap — which includes more than a quarter of the uninsured, non-elderly adults in these 25 states, according to a recent analysis by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured — are shut out of health reform’s coverage options.  Their income is too low to qualify for help buying private coverage through the new marketplaces and too high to qualify for Medicaid.
  • States that haven’t expanded are missing out on a very good financial deal.  The federal government will pick up 100 percent of the cost of covering newly eligible people through 2016 and no less than 90 percent of the cost after that.  So, the amount of federal money that states forgo by not expanding will continue to grow.
  • States that have expanded expect slower growth in state Medicaid costs than states that haven’t expanded.  This finding, from a recent Kaiser survey of states, reflects the fact that expansion states anticipate savings in state-funded services that they have provided to uninsured individuals who are now eligible for Medicaid.  Examples include mental health care, corrections-related health care, and uncompensated care.

Iowa’s Medicaid Expansion Has Lessons for Other States

December 16, 2013 at 2:15 pm

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last week approved Iowa’s proposal to adopt health reform’s Medicaid expansion through a pair of demonstration projects, often called “waivers.”  As a result, more than 100,000 uninsured Iowans will be newly eligible for health coverage starting January 1.

That’s great news.  HHS’s decision is important for other states because it suggests that federal officials will work with states to craft a reasonable expansion plan but won’t approve proposals — like one from Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, described below — that would make it hard or nearly impossible for eligible people to get needed coverage.

Under Iowa’s plan, the state will use Medicaid funds to buy private coverage in health reform’s new marketplace for people with incomes between 100 and 133 percent of the poverty line.  After the first year, people in this income range will pay roughly the same premiums as if they were receiving premium tax credits to buy coverage themselves through the marketplace.  But people who complete a wellness exam and an assessment of their health risks won’t have to pay premiums; nor will people who suffer financial hardship.

While approving those parts of Iowa’s plan, HHS denied Iowa’s request to charge premiums to beneficiaries with incomes below the poverty line and to cancel their coverage if they miss payments.  This maintains the important principle that poor people shouldn’t face premiums for health coverage.  Research shows that premiums reduce participation in Medicaid and make it harder for people to maintain coverage.

The limits that HHS imposed on Iowa’s plan are especially important given recent news out of Pennsylvania.  There, Governor Corbett has proposed expanding Medicaid but with requirements that would make it hard for many low-income people to qualify.

The governor’s plan would require people with incomes as low as 50 percent of the poverty line ($5,745 a year) to pay premiums.  It also includes stringent work requirements that would likely make it very difficult for many people to get or maintain health coverage.  It would, for example, force a single mother with two kids who is working fewer than 20 hours a week to jump through a series of administrative hoops in order to gain and maintain coverage.

These parts of Pennsylvania’s proposal go beyond the appropriate flexibility that HHS has given states.  Governor Corbett should abandon them, if he wants to take advantage of health reform’s opportunity to bring coverage to hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians.

States Can Reduce Kids’ Uninsured Rate Further by Expanding Medicaid

November 20, 2013 at 2:40 pm

The Georgetown University Center for Children and Families’ annual report on children’s health coverage, released today, brings welcome news:  the rate of children without health coverage fell for the fifth consecutive year, from 9.3 percent in 2008 to 7.2 percent in 2012 (see chart).

The report notes that state decisions whether to expand Medicaid under health reform, which would extend coverage to adults earning less than 133 percent of the federal poverty line ($25,975 for a family of three), will build on these gains in children’s coverage.  Here’s why:

Nearly 70 percent of the nation’s 5.3 million uninsured children are already eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program but are not enrolled, according to Georgetown’s researchers.  When states expand Medicaid for parents, the number of uninsured children falls, because parents are more likely to sign up their eligible children for coverage when the whole family can get coverage, research shows.  Research also finds that when parents have coverage, their children are less likely to experience breaks in coverage and are more likely to receive preventive care and other needed care.  As a result, making coverage available to more low-income parents through health reform’s Medicaid expansion should further reduce the ranks of uninsured children.

Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia already have decided to expand Medicaid next year.  As policymakers in Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and other states contemplate whether to expand their Medicaid programs, they should consider the positive impact that expansion will have on children’s health coverage and access to needed care.