Sebelius Under Fire Over Backlog of Medicaid Applications

Image: Sebelius Under Fire Over Backlog of Medicaid Applications

Tuesday, 29 Apr 2014 11:23 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Outgoing Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius has been slammed by a Washington think tank over her plan to solve the crisis surrounding the huge backlog of Medicaid applications under Obamacare.

Hundreds of thousands of applications due to the expansion of Medicaid in the Affordable Care Act have piled up in recent months, and Sebelius is mulling plans to slash administrative funding to deal with the problem, according to The Daily Caller.

The chaos has been compounded by the technological glitches between Obamacare's government website and the electronic operations of state marketplaces, resulting in backlogs nationwide.

Sebelius told a Senate Finance Committee recently that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which comes under her jurisdiction, was considering temporarily cutting federal funding that states are receiving for the administrative costs of handling the volume of backlogged applications.

Her theory is the threat of upcoming cuts would push states to move their stack of applications as quickly as possible.

But the Washington, D.C.-based American Action Forum, which promotes center-right public policy and is run by former Congressional Budget Office director Doug Holtz-Eakin, says cutting administrative funding to states already mired in a backup of paperwork will only lead to an even greater "slowdown."

In a report on the crisis Monday, the forum's healthcare policy analyst Angela Boothe wrote, "In order to encourage states to move through their backlogged applications more quickly, [CMS] may decrease the federal matching rate for Medicaid — with the cut expected to come in the forms of reductions to administrative Medicaid funding.

"States that are still reporting an inability to connect with the federal marketplace, and are therefore seeing applications back up in the determination process, are subject to these cuts.

"Secretary Sebelius rationalizes this funding threat as an incentive. However, reducing administrative reimbursement to states already crammed with backlogged applications will only lead to additional staffing pressures and slowdowns."

According to reports, Illinois has a backlog of 200,000 applications, while California's Medicaid has 800,000 applications waiting to be processed, and Nevada is still sorting through 65,000 applications.

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