Medicaid pay commission to launch this summer

The panel has taken on new importance since the passage of health reform, which will expand Medicaid enrollment by millions.

By Doug Trapp — Posted May 3, 2010

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A new commission charged with examining the effect of Medicaid physician pay on patient access will begin its work this summer, its chair said.

The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, or MACPAC, was created by the Children's Health Insurance Program reauthorization, signed into law in 2009. The panel is expected to serve a similar role as the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, but for Medicaid, according to MACPAC Chair Diane Rowland, ScD, executive director of the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.

Rowland said she expects to hold a conference call with MACPAC members in May, with the initial meeting coming soon after.

MACPAC was to begin meeting in January, but it lacked funding until the health system reform law -- enacted in March -- provided the panel with $11 million. The commission's 17 members, which include four physicians, will not be paid salaries. The commission also includes academic, private sector and government leaders, and Medicaid and CHIP enrollees.

The health reform law bestowed additional importance on MACPAC by expanding Medicaid eligibility in the next decade, a move that the Congressional Budget Office predicts will cover 16 million additional enrollees.

MACPAC is expected to examine the influence of federal and state policies on Medicaid and CHIP enrollment, eligibility, and coverage on patients' access to care and the quality of the care they receive.

Rowland said the new commission already had important work cut out for it. "But with the broadening of Medicaid eligibility and health reform, I think [MACPAC] has a much broader and more critical role."

MACPAC Vice Chair David Sundwall, MD, a family physician and the Utah Dept. of Health's executive director, said he will try to keep the panel from straying into topics that are not part of the commission's scope. Staying focused can be difficult for commissions such as MACPAC, he said. "They all get mission drift."

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