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Medicaid Preventive Services: Concerted Efforts Needed to Ensure Beneficiaries Receive Services.



GAO-09-578 August 14, 2009

Medicaid, a federal-state program that finances health care for certain low-income populations, can play a critical role in the provision of preventive services, which help prevent, diagnose, and manage health conditions. GAO examined available data to assess (1) the extent to which Medicaid children and adults have certain health conditions and receive certain preventive services, (2) for Medicaid children, state monitoring and promotion of the provision of preventive services, (3) for Medicaid adults, state coverage of preventive services, and (4) federal oversight by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS (1) See content management system and color management system.

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). GAO analyzed data from nationally representative surveys: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES NHANES National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (US CDC) ), which includes physical examinations of participants, and the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS MEPS Medical Expenditure Panel Survey
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). GAO also surveyed state Medicaid directors and interviewed federal officials.

Nationally representative data suggest that a large proportion of children and adults in Medicaid have certain health conditions, particularly obesity, that can be identified or managed by preventive services, and adults' receipt of preventive services varies widely. For Medicaid children, NHANES data from 1999 through 2006 suggest that 18 percent of children aged 2 through 20 were obese, 4 percent of children aged 8 through 20 had high blood pressure, and 10 percent of children aged 6 through 20 had high cholesterol Cholesterol, High Definition

Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in animal tissue and is an important component to the human body. It is manufactured in the liver and carried throughout the body in the bloodstream.
. Furthermore, MEPS data from 2003 through 2006 suggest that many Medicaid children were not receiving well-child check ups. For Medicaid adults aged 21 through 64, NHANES data suggest that more than half were obese or had diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or a combination. MEPS data suggest that receipt of preventive services varied widely by service: receipt of some services, such as blood pressure tests, was high, but receipt of several other services was low. MEPS data also suggest that a lower percentage of Medicaid adults received preventive services compared to privately insured adults. For children in Medicaid, who generally are entitled to coverage of comprehensive health screenings, including well-child check ups, as part of the federally required EPSDT EPSDT Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment  benefit, most but not all states reported to GAO that they monitored or set goals related to children's utilization of preventive services and had undertaken initiatives to promote their provision. Nine states reported that they did not monitor children's utilization of specific preventive services. Forty-seven states reported having multiple initiatives to improve the provision of preventive services to children. For adults in Medicaid, for whom states' Medicaid coverage of preventive services is generally not required, most states reported to GAO that they covered most but not all of eight recommended preventive services that GAO reviewed. Nearly all state Medicaid programs, 49 and 48 respectively, reported covering cervical cancer Cervical Cancer Definition

Cervical cancer is a disease in which the cells of the cervix become abnormal and start to grow uncontrollably, forming tumors.
 screening and mammography mammography, diagnostic procedure that uses low-dose X rays to detect abnormalities in the breasts. The early diagnosis of breast cancer made possible by the routine use of mammography for screening women increases a woman's treatment alternatives and improves her , and three-quarters or more states reported covering four other preventive services. Two additional recommended services--intensive counseling to address obesity or to address high cholesterol--were reported as covered by fewer than one-third of states. For children in Medicaid, CMS oversees the provision of preventive services through state EPSDT reports and reviews of EPSDT programs, but gaps in oversight remain; for adults, oversight is more limited. For children, state reports showed that, on average, 58 percent of Medicaid children who were eligible for an EPSDT service in 2007 received one; far below the federal goal of 80 percent. CMS reviewed only 11 state EPSDT programs between April 2001 and June 2009. Few states reporting low rates of service provision were reviewed. CMS guidance to states may also have gaps: a 2006 study raised concerns that providers may not be aware of coverage of obesity-related services for Medicaid children. CMS has recognized the need for but has not yet begun drafting guidance on such coverage. For adults, CMS has provided some related guidance to states, but not on the reviewed preventive services.

Recommendations

Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

Director: Alicia P. Cackley Team: Government Accountability Office The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is the audit, evaluation, and investigative arm of the United States Congress, and thus an agency in the Legislative Branch of the United States Government. : Health Care Phone: (202) 512-7022

Recommendations for Executive Action

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Recommendation: To improve the provision of preventive services to the Medicaid population, the Administrator of CMS should ensure that state Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) programs are regularly reviewed to identify gaps in provision of EPSDT services to children and to identify needed improvements.

Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services Noun 1. Department of Health and Human Services - the United States federal department that administers all federal programs dealing with health and welfare; created in 1979
Health and Human Services, HHS
: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), previously known as the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), is a federal agency within the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that administers the Medicare program and  

Status: In process

Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

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Recommendation: To improve the provision of preventive services to the Medicaid population, the Administrator of CMS should expedite current efforts to provide policy guidance on coverage of obesity-related services for Medicaid children, and consider the need to provide similar guidance regarding coverage of obesity screening and counseling, and other recommended preventive services, for adults.

Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Status: In process

Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

Categories: Health, Beneficiaries, Child care programs, Children, Disease control, Disease detection or diagnosis, Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment Program, Federal/state relations, Health care programs, Health care services, Health surveys, Medicaid, Monitoring, Nutrition surveys, Preventive health care services, Reporting requirements, Risk management, State-administered programs, Strategic planning
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Publication:General Accounting Office Reports & Testimony
Date:Oct 1, 2009
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