Temporary rules allow schools to get additional Medicaid funding

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The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (NH DHHS) announced temporary rules to expand the Medicaid to Schools program, which allows school districts to receive additional federal funding for student services like mental health counseling, hearing services, speech therapy, and occupational therapy. Earlier this month, there was concern that a delay in the rulemaking process would have meant districts started the school year without the extra federal funding, but the temporary rules will allow them to move forward with the program. 

The state legislature passed a law in 2017 that allows districts to receive federal funding for student services that support students eligible for Medicaid but who do not necessarily have an Individual Education Program (IEP). Known as “Medicaid for Schools” program, these funds were, before 2017, only available for students with IEPs. But due to the legislation passed in 2017, the program can now include any child that is eligible for Medicaid.

Under the law, DHHS was required to pass formal rules before districts could bill Medicaid. Last month, The Department passed temporary rules and will enter the formal rulemaking process in September, which will include a public comment period.

From the Union Leader:

In New Hampshire, Medicaid to Schools (MTS) is a voluntary program that allows school districts to bill Medicaid, with parental consent, for certain services. In 2017, 63% of New Hampshire school districts participated in MTS and were reimbursed for more than $28 million in Medicaid funds, according to DHHS…

“Schools play an important role in shaping children’s futures by not only ensuring their educational needs are met, but also ensuring children’s physical and behavioral health needs are met,” DHHS Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers said in a statement.

“Changes to the Medicaid to Schools program support schools’ role by expanding the number of schoolchildren served and the services available,” Meyers said. “We thank the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules for approving these rules for the benefit of New Hampshire students.”

There are approximately 87,000 low-income children statewide who are currently enrolled in Medicaid, a federal/state-funded health care program that serves needy individuals and families.

Ladd said he expects the number of New Hampshire students who qualify for the MTS program will “jump dramatically” this school year. And the federal match means that school districts, especially those in small, rural districts, will be better able to afford the services their students need, he said.

The expanded program also will cover the cost of transportation, Ladd said, “which in rural districts is a huge issue.”

Becky Whitley, policy coordinator with the New Hampshire Children’s Behavioral Health Collaborative, welcomed DHHS’ efforts to make the matching funds available for the new school year.

“At a time when our state is grappling with mental health and substance use crises, the release of temporary rules will allow school districts to provide necessary supports and services to children without further delay,” Whitley said. “The expanded program will allow school districts to better support children and their families by enabling the districts to be reimbursed for providing medically necessary services to all Medicaid-eligible students.

“Students with behavioral health needs will be better supported, as substance use disorder and mental health services are included in the expansion,” she said.

Medicaid provided over $29 million in funding for students with IEPs in 2016, and every school district in the state currently accepts the funding. Here is a breakdown of how much each school district in New Hampshire received in 2016 through the Medicaid to Schools program, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Read more about how Medicaid affects student services in New Hampshire’s schools:

Source: More help on the way for schools, needy kids | Union Leader