California: Judge Orders Medicaid Agency to Process Applications within 45 Days or Provide Temporary Coverage

A Superior Court judge ordered the California Department of Health Care Services to process Medi-Cal applications within 45 days, as is required in federal regulations. As reported by the Sacramento Business Journal, the ruling was in response to a lawsuit against the Medicaid agency's application backlog, which grew to more than 900,000 unprocessed applications in 2014 due to ongoing technology issues. While the agency has largely resolved these issues and now processes most applications within the time limit, the State will provide temporary Medi-Cal coverage to applicants who do not receive an eligibility determination within 45 days.

Iowa: Governor Proposes Shifting Medicaid to Managed Care

Governor Terry Branstad (R) announced a plan to use one or multiple managed care organizations (MCOs) to operate Iowa's Medicaid program, according to the Des Moines Register. Iowa currently uses two MCOs, though for limited Medicaid services. Full details of the plan are expected in March 2015, with the first contract beginning in January 2016. The Governor's office estimates this plan will save $51.3 million in the first six months.

Maryland: Governor Identifies Medicaid as Largest Spending Driver and Proposes Reduced Provider Reimbursement

In his “Budget Challenge” presentation, the newly elected Governor Larry Hogan Jr. (R) identified Medicaid as the largest single contributor to the total $300 million shortfall in the FY 2015 budget. He attributed the $200 million Medicaid deficiency to higher than anticipated health coverage enrollment, higher costs of new Hepatitis C drugs, and shortfalls in settlement payments from tobacco companies used for Medicaid spending. Further, he proposed using $45 million from the Maryland Health Insurance Program, the State’s high risk pool, to help offset the shortfall and enacting a 50% reduction to FY 2015 increases in provider rates. The Governor also identified Medicaid as the largest driver of baseline spending for FY 2016 and proposed reducing provider reimbursement to FY 2014 levels to slow this spending growth.

Wisconsin: Budget Proposal To Include Mandatory Drug Tests For Medicaid Recipients

Governor Scott Walker (R) announced that his proposed budget will require drug testing for beneficiaries of various public assistance programs. The Governor’s spokeswoman Laurel Patrick explained that the State will seek permission to test all childless adults on Medicaid and able-bodied adults using the State’s supplemental nutrition assistance program. Governor Walker also announced that the State will provide free substance abuse programs and job training for those who fail the drug test.