Medicaid payment for juvenile multisystemic therapy approved

A bill that authorizes Medicaid reimbursement for a therapy used to assist troubled Nebraska youth passed May 21.

LB500, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Sara Howard, would have directed the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to submit an application by July 1, 2015, to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for a state plan amendment to provide payment for multisystemic therapy (MST), functional family therapy and in-home family services for youth who are eligible for both Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Howard offered a motion May 19 to return the proposal to select file to consider an amendment to move the application deadline to May 1, 2016, and to limit the bill’s provisions to MST only. While all three therapies would be “game changers” for the state’s youth and families, she said, fiscal realities forced the change.

“I feel a fiduciary responsibility to be conscious of the challenges we have faced in our budget-setting process,” Howard said, which means taking a slower approach to implementing the changes outlined in LB500.

Omaha Sen. Heath Mello supported the amendment, saying it reflects a consensus reached by all three branches of government.

Mello said there had been some disagreement regarding the short- and long-term costs of implementing the bill, but that all parties had agreed on the need to move forward with Medicaid payment for MST.

“The challenge that we’ve been wrestling with is what the real fiscal impact is,” he said.

Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha also supported the amendment. The new head of DHHS has experience with implementing the new therapies, he said, and has urged senators to go slowly with the implementation process.

“We’ve been professionally counseled about the way to make this program a success,” Krist said.

Senators voted 31-0 to adopt the amendment and re-advanced LB500 to final reading by voice vote. The narrowed bill received final approval May 21 on a 40-1 vote.

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