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MACPAC releases inaugural report on Medicaid and CHIP programs

Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program provided health benefits to nearly 75 million people last year – or nearly one in four people – according to the inaugural report of the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC).

Created by The Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009, MACPAC is a non-partisan agency with the sole purpose of reporting on Medicaid and CHIP programs. According to the commission, this report will serve as a framework for future reporting to Congress on the two programs.

"Given the substantial role of Medicaid and CHIP in our healthcare system, we hope that this inaugural report will serve as a source of valuable information for the Congress and provide a foundation for the commission's future work," said Diane Rowland, commission chairperson. "MACPAC's March 2011 report reflects the commission's commitment to providing thorough data and nonpartisan analysis to the Congress on Medicaid and CHIP."

[See also: CMS launches RAC rules for Medicaid; UnitedHealth envisions $3.5T savings by restructuring Medicare and Medicaid ]

According to the report, state and federal expenditures for Medicaid totaled more than $400 billion in 2010 and provided coverage for 68 million people. Of that total, nearly 30 million were children. The CHIP program accounted for another $11 billion in spending and covered an additional 8 million children.

At the core of the report are state-by-sate statistical breakdowns that detail total Medicaid and CHIP enrollment and type of care received, as well as total program funding from federal and state sources.

"For years Congress has made Medicaid policy without the kind of detailed information available to inform policy decisions that we received on the Medicare program through MedPAC," said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who was instrumental in developing the legislation to establish MACPAC. "Congress and other policy makers need to pay attention to this kind of independent data and assessment in order to make Medicaid policies that don't result in busting state budgets with expansions that are implausible and leave people without access to promised benefits."

Charged with providing comprehensive and accurate data to Congress, MACPAC noted there are significant challenges to creating a report on all Medicaid and CHIP programs.

"Issues such as data timeliness, consistency and availability ... have presented longstanding challenges," the report noted. "Different Medicaid and CHIP data are collected from states at different times for different purposes, with states reporting some information on their Medicaid and CHIP programs more than once. In addition to these redundancies, there are gaps in some of the data sources created in this process that limit their usefulness."

While CMS is working on a plan to address the issues, including upgrading its computer and data collections systems, the commission also encouraged the centers to seek input on these efforts from states and other stakeholders. In addition, the commission noted that areas of improvement for CMS should "include the reporting of encounter data by managed care plans, the timeliness of enrollment and other data, consistency of data across sources and information about state program policies."

MACPAC's next report to Congress is scheduled for June 15. To access the complete report issued this week click here.

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