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Cardin, Toomey & Collins Question Program Suspension

September 27th, 2016 by WCBC Radio

U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have written a letter to Andrew Slavitt, Acting Director for Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), expressing concern over the agency’s suspension of an emergency psychiatric services pilot program. The letter urges CMS to allow states to submit additional data before finalizing its decision to discontinue the Medicaid Emergency Psychiatric Demonstration (MEPD).

“We are concerned that CMS’s lack of timely direction and guidance to participating state Medicaid directors and institutions of mental disease (IMDs) regarding relevant data needs may have led to an incomplete and inaccurate budget picture,” the senators wrote. “Most concerning is that it appears CMS may have made a critical decision about the future of the program without having all the relevant information.” The letter also asks that CMS provide a template by which states can submit the necessary data in a comprehensive and organized fashion.

Maryland was one of the 11 states that were part of MEPD, which tested whether covering patients in these hospitals will improve timely access to emergency psychiatric care, reduce the burden on overcrowded emergency rooms, and improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of inpatient psychiatric care.

Without the MEPD, patients are forced to seek emergency psychiatric help at general hospitals, where both space and psychiatric personnel are severely limited. In their letter, the senators point out that – according to CMS’s own letter to participating states – CMS “did not have sufficient information upon which to base a certification of budget neutrality” and make an informed decision regarding the program’s suspension.

Senators Cardin and Toomey are original authors of the Improving Access to Emergency Psychiatric Care Act (S. 599/H.R. 3681), which was signed into law by President Obama on December 11, 2015. The original demonstration was set to expire in December 2015, but the law extended the Demonstration through September 30, 2016, if the demonstration is cost-beneficial or cost-neutral in a given state. 

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