Medicaid program dispatches special teams to 21 states

Seeking flexibility in the federal rules that govern their Medicaid programs, 21 states received assistance from special teams of experts dispatched by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, reports Kaiser Health News. However, officials from some of those states expressed disappointment with the results.

Known as Medicaid State Technical Assistance Teams, they were dispatched in February "to provide intensive and tailored assistance," said Cindy Mann, who oversees the Medicaid program.

The states included both Red and Blue strongholds such as Alabama and Utah, New York and Connecticut. The teams provided assistance to states seeking to close large budgets gaps by reviewing plans to contract directly with commercial providers. Criticism and compliments have generally been along political lines.

"While we appreciate the team's assistance, our experience has been mixed," Louisiana Health Secretary Bruce Greenstein told KHN. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has been highly critical of the healthcare reform law, which would include a significant expansion of the Medicaid program. "The Medicaid delivery program is fundamentally broken, and even the best federl bureaucrats are hamstrung by an out-of-date program that severely limits each states' ability to run an efficient program," added Greenstein.

However an official in New Jersey, a generally more liberal state, called the assistance "a useful resource."

For more:
- read the Kaiser Health News article
- read the CMS memo (.pdf) on the teams