January 30, 2020 – National Council for Behavioral Health President and CEO Chuck Ingoglia today issued the statement below in response to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) new guidance to states to apply for waivers to Medicaid block grants, which would reduce federal Medicaid spending and reduce eligibility, payment or benefits for Medicaid recipients. The proposal also could result in many barriers to health care access:
“Medicaid provides 1 in 5 Americans with an important safety net by granting access to health care for some of the most vulnerable people in our nation. The administration’s block grant proposal would shred that safety net and put people at risk by capping the amount of money states spend on Medicaid. In addition, the troublesome proposal unveiled today is tragically flawed because it will undermine the health and welfare of vulnerable populations, including individuals with behavioral health and substance use disorders, who depend on Medicaid.
“The proposed guidance could potentially result in higher co-pays for medications and services, imposition of premiums, work requirements or other requirements that would limit participation in the program. We don’t need more barriers preventing access to health care or financial pressure on the program that will undoubtedly result in lowering services for everyone.
“Although we are deeply concerned about the onerous CMS guidance outlined today, it’s important to remember the proposal won’t result in immediate changes to the program. Medicaid continues to operate as usual. It’s also important to remember that the proposed block grant program, if approved, would be optional – no state would be obligated to implement the program.
“In practical terms, this policy proposal faces enormous hurdles in Congress and the courts. However, the National Council will work diligently to keep our members apprised of discussions over this dramatic policy change and urge Congress to preserve Medicaid for the millions of people who rely on the program.”