Section 1115 Medicaid waivers allow states to explore new options for providing health coverage to persons who would otherwise not be eligible and allow states to examine innovative ways to deliver care by waiving certain requirements of the Medicaid Act.
While waivers can be important tools that can help states respond to the needs of low-income individuals, they also present concerns for health advocates working to protect the rights of Medicaid enrollees and promote transparency in state waiver processes.
Sec. 1115 of the Social Security Act allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services to waive some requirements of the Medicaid Act so that states can test novel approaches to improving medical assistance for low-income people.
Under the current administration, several states are seeking waivers to impose harmful cuts and restrictions. The first set of harmful waivers have been approved for Kentucky and Arkansas, with a number of states seeking to enact similar changes to Medicaid. Learn more about Medicaid waivers and how the National Health Law Program is combating the Trump administration’s illegal use of waivers to weaken Medicaid.
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- June 7, 2022
A landmark foster care reform law, the Family First Prevention Services Act, was intended to ensure that children are able to live in family-like settings and reduce reliance on unnecessary institutional care. In doing so, the new law put a spotlight on a longstanding Medicaid law and policy that prohibits states from obtaining federal funds for services provided to residents of mental health facilities with more than 16 beds. This exclusion has existed since Medicaid was enacted in 1965, and plays an oft misunderstood and underappreciated role in incentivizing states to provide services in smaller, more community-based settings. This issue brief discusses the intersection of the IMD exclusion with foster care placements and advocates for a path forward where federal funding continues to be used to further the goal of keeping children with families.
- April 14, 2022
NHeLP comments on Oregon’s application for renewal of the Oregon Health Plan § 1115(a) Demonstration Waiver for 2022-2027
In public comments, NHeLP expresses support for Oregon's decision to abandon its waiver of EPSDT. However, NHeLP strongly opposes Oregon's proposal to exclude outpatient prescription drugs approved under the FDA's accelerated approval pathway. Denying Medicaid enrollees access to effective break-through therapies would harm people with serious or life-threatening medical conditions. NHeLP also expresses concern about implementation of the EPSDT waiver withdrawal, and opposes the continued use of the prioritized list for children and adults.
- January 6, 2022
In 2017, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued a policy announcing its intent to “approve the extension of routine, successful, non-complex” section 1115 waivers for a period of up to 10 years. Thereafter, CMS extended a number of projects for 10 years. This issue brief explains how the policy and the subsequent approvals are contrary to section 1115 and calls on the Biden administration to rescind the policy, reconsider the approvals, and adhere to the text of section 1115 moving forward.
- November 30, 2021
Comments from the National Health Law Program opposing Montana's request for federal funding of mental health and SUD services in IMDs.
- November 1, 2021
In comments to the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Health Law Program explains that the initial purpose of the Primary Care Network project, which started nearly 20 years ago as a way to expand coverage to population groups that were not described in the Medicaid Act at that time, has been lost. Currently, the project is a hodgepodge of features, many of which restrict coverage and access to care. As a result, we recommend that CMS take the following steps in response to Utah’s application: Where possible, CMS should require Utah to implement elements of the project through other authorities (the state plan or non-demonstration waiver authorities). CMS should then evaluate the remaining elements of the project in accordance with section 1115.
- November 1, 2021
In comments to the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Health Law Program urges HHS to reject New Hampshire's request to waive the Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion for certain psychiatric facilities.
- August 20, 2021
In the Updating Payment Parameters Rule (UPP Rule), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposes several important changes to enrollment in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplaces. These changes include extending the open enrollment period, establishing a year-around Special Enrollment Period for low income persons, restoring key features of the Navigator program such as providing consumers assistance in using their plans, ending the abortion double-billing provision, and restoring guard rails for Section 1332 waivers. NHeLP comments express strong support for these changes, and suggest areas where CMS can go even further to help consumers and reduce the number of insured people.
- July 15, 2021
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic plunged the United States into a public health crisis. This situation was not entirely unprecedented. Local crises had previously been triggered by events such as hurricanes (e.g., Katrina in 2005, Irma in 2017), wildfires (e.g., California in 2017 and 2018), lead contamination (Flint, Michigan in 2016), and terrorist attacks (New York City after 9/11). During these events, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) used waiver authority to allow affected states to ignore otherwise mandatory Medicaid requirements so that they could use Medicaid as part of the emergency response. These crises, and particularly the COVID-19 pandemic, have made it clear that the current statutes do not give HHS sufficient emergency waiver authority. This paper: Outlines legal authorities that allow HHS and states to adjust their Medicaid programs during an emergency; Identifies deficiencies in these authorities; and Makes recommendations that, if implemented, will better prepare Medicaid programs for the next crisis. The two authorities that HHS and states have turned to the most during emergencies are Section 1115 and Section 1135 of the Social Security Act.
- May 20, 2021
Tension and confusion can arise over how HHS allows states to change their Medicaid programs, whether through a state plan amendment (SPA) or a Section 1115 project. To help guard against the impoper use of Section 1115 waivers, advocates must know the distinctions between Section 1115 waivers and SPAs. This primer outlines these distinctions.
- February 23, 2021
NHeLP comments to an Interim Final Regulation opposing HHS's attempt to weaken the Maintenance of Effort requirement protecting Medicaid coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic.