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Medicaid Officials Provide Extension of Higher Matching Funds

By Rebecca Adams, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor

October 28, 2014 -- Federal Medicaid officials will permanently pay 90 percent of the costs for technological upgrades to enrollment and eligibility systems, according to a recent letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The share of funding, which every state in the country has taken advantage of, had been expected to drop to 50 percent of states' costs on Jan. 1, 2016.

The money was available through a 2011 rule that also increased the federal matching rate for maintaining or operating the electronic enrollment and eligibility systems from 50 percent to 75 percent of costs.

"We intend to issue new regulations that will codify the availability of the 90/10 federal matching funds for Medicaid eligibility and enrollment systems on a permanent basis," wrote CMS Deputy Administrator Cindy Mann in a letter to the National Association of Medicaid Directors and the American Public Human Services Association.

Federal officials will be proposing updated criteria that states will need to meet in order to qualify for continued funding, Mann said. One requirement will be that states will have to show that they finished updating their systems to use a different measure of income than was typically used in the past.

The agency also will provide a three-year extension of a waiver option that allowed states to build integrated eligibility systems with human services programs, without having to make the human services programs cover part of the costs. The human services programs still have to pay for anything that was designed exclusively for their use.

The integrated systems can handle eligibility for Medicaid as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs. Most states received a waiver for the streamlined systems. That money will now be available through December 2018.

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