- The Washington Times - Monday, June 4, 2018

The Trump administration unveiled a Medicaid “scorecard” Monday to measure whether states are going beyond strict compliance with federal rules and using tax dollars to actually make beneficiaries healthier.

Seema Verma, chief of the agency responsible for Medicaid, said the web-based dashboard will shed light on where states are excelling or falling behind other states, as President Trump gives states a free hand to tailor the insurance program for the poor to their own populations.

“We want to give them more flexibility. In return, we want more accountability,” she said.

Enrollees, taxpayers or anyone interested in the program can log onto Medicaid.gov and see how states stack up in meeting 14 health measures.

For instance, they’ll see that Rhode Island does a good job in vaccinating children against key diseases by age 13 and providing new mothers timely access to postpartum care, while Oklahoma fares poorly on both measures.

Ms. Verma declined to call out individual states on Monday but said she’ll use the data to kick-start conversations about why some achieve better outcomes than others.

“By having the scorecard and having the information, at least we get to start those conversations, which we haven’t been having,” Ms. Verma said.

The scorecard is also designed to hold CMS accountable by publishing the number of days it takes them to review states’ requests to change their programs through waivers. The agency has approved work requirements in Kentucky, Indiana, Arkansas, New Hampshire, though eight more states are waiting for the agency to accept or reject similar requests.

“We’re putting ourselves out there,” Ms. Verma said.

Medicaid is a massive program that covers about half of the nation’s births and six in 10 nursing home residents and costs state and federal taxpayers more than $550 billion per year.

It’s getting larger, too, as states like Virginia opt to join the dozens of states who’ve used federal dollars under Obamacare to expand coverage to able-bodied people making up to 138 percent of poverty level.

“If we’re going to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars, and good servants to the 75 million Americans who depend on Medicaid, we must be honest with ourselves and honest with all of our stakeholders — including beneficiaries, taxpayers, providers, advocates, state legislators and member of Congress — about how well we are doing,” Ms. Verma said.

CMS acknowledged limits within the data, which is voluntarily reported by the states.

Some states didn’t report data at all for certain questions, and Ms. Verma said they will consider whether reporting should be mandatory.

The data will be updated annually and may include new metrics each year.

“Where this goes and what it becomes is up for discussion,” Ms. Verma said.

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