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3 States Expand Medicaid Preventive Services Under Obamacare

The states will receive a one percent increase in the matching rate to their Medicaid program to pay for services that include counseling for healthy diet habits as well as screenings for various cancers and other diseases.

Three states have taken a deal offered by the federal government under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to expand their Medicaid coverage of preventive services.

Nevada, New Hampshire and New York have had Medicaid state plan amendments approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to cover more preventive services, according to CMS. California and New Jersey have filed amendments, but they are still under review.

Under the health reform law, if states agree to cover all services graded A or B (in other words, highly recommended) by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel that makes public health recommendations, they will receive a one percent increase in the matching rate that CMS contributes to their Medicaid program to pay for those services.

Officials estimate the change will cost the federal government $100,000 in New York for FY 2014. Cost projections were not immediately available for Nevada or New Hampshire. It's unclear at this time how many Medicaid patients in New York will receive preventive services; the state has approximately 5.5 million Medicaid enrollees.

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Recommended services include having older men take aspirin to lower the risk of heart attack, counseling on healthy diet habits and tobacco cessation programs, as well as screenings for various cancers, diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases and cholesterol levels.

States can choose whether or not to cover preventive services under the traditional Medicaid program, which insures more than 60 million people nationwide. Under the ACA's Medicaid expansion, which is effectively a separate program and takes effect next year, preventive services must be covered for new enrollees. But unless states take advantage of the CMS offer, traditional Medicaid coverage will stay the same for current enrollees.

The deadline for states to change their coverage is Jan. 1, 2014, so more states could still file amendments by the end of the year.

Dylan Scott is a GOVERNING staff writer.
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