The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System finally received approval from the federal government for its partial enrollment freeze, though the one-day delay will push back freeze by an extra week.
The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) today approved the state’s “phase-out plan” for AHCCCS, which paves the way for a planned enrollment freeze for childless adults. The freeze was initially scheduled to go into effect today, but was temporary halted because Arizona had not received approval from CMS.
The approval letter also paves the way for second attempt to block the cuts from going into effect. A Maricopa Court Superior Court judge yesterday rejected the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest’s request for a temporary restraining order against the freeze because the plaintiffs – four AHCCCS patients – wouldn’t actually lose coverage when the freeze went into effect. ACLPI attorney Tim Hogan said he would re-file his request as soon as the freeze was implemented.
According to a letter from CMS Director Cindy Mann to AHCCCS Director Tom Betlach, childless adults will have until July 8 to apply for Medicaid benefits under the current eligibility requirements. The freeze is expected to trim about 100,000 people from AHCCCS during the fiscal year 2012, which is expected to save the state about $207 million.
“While we regret this decision…this is a matter of state choice,” Mann wrote in her letter.
Hogan said his next request for a temporary restraining order will have to wait at least until July 8 as well because he must file suit on behalf of people who are eligible for AHCCCS but were turned down due to the freeze.
“When Friday rolls around, we’ll be attentive to the people who are childless adults who are going to be denied,” Hogan said.
Mann noted in her letter that CMS was granting approval only for the phase-out plan, a requirement for Arizona to reduce its eligibility in October, when its current Medicaid agreement with the feds expires. Part of the phase-out plan requires Arizona to assist AHCCCS patients who are losing coverage in finding assistance from other programs.