States Lagging Behind in Medicaid Meaningful Use Payments

Posted on March 30, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

If I were part of CMS, I’d be pretty annoyed right now: Apparently, state Medicaid programs are beginning to be a wet blanket in the race to get providers up to Meaningful Use standards.  According to InformationWeek, a dozen states aren’t yet paying out Medicaid incentives, and some of those haven’t even launched incentive programs yet.  Not good news, to say the least.

According to a new post on CMS’s official blog, CMS has handed out Medicare and Medicaid incentives to more than 59,000 eligible professionals and 2,000 hospitals. It also noted that the Medicaid program alone had made more than $1.8 billion in MU incentive payments between January 2011 and the end of last month.

That’s not a bad start, but the slow pace of some Medicaid MU programs is a drag on meeting CMS’s overall goal, which is to have 100,000 providers get MU payments this year.

True, some states are clearly doing their level best: Ohio, which wants to reach 40 percent of eligible providers, Washington, whose goal is 7,000 EPs and hospitals, California, which is trying to get 10,000 providers set up for Medicaid incentives by June; and New York, which hopes to get 6,000 providers get incentive payments in 2012. And 43 states in total have launched a Medicaid incentive program and begun registering applicants, the article reports.

But then there’s the naughty states, which include Hawaii, Idaho, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Virginia — which haven’t launched their Medicaid incentive programs at all. As of December, however, CMS expects (demands?) that all states be making Medicaid incentive payments by June, according to a CMS official quoted in the story.

In the grand scheme of things, I’m pretty confident that Medicare, not Medicaid incentives, are going to drive the train here.  That being said, it is worth asking whether the states’ lagging efforts will create serious problems for the MU program. As I see it, it could go either way, but regardless, it’s not a good sign.