Clients and patients who use Medicaid to pay for their care, and the professionals who care for them, will not be impacted now that the threat of a cut to projected reimbursement rates has been put off.
Earlier this year, the Maryland General Assembly approved a 4-percent increase in funding for in-state providers of Medicaid services. But as the state grapples with costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Board of Public Works considered a recommendation to nix the increase. When the board voted June 29, it kept the provider rate increase intact. The increase went into effect July 1.
This increase, which helps pay for agency services related to behavioral health, adults with disabilities, and seniors, was badly needed before COVID-19. By leaving the 4-percent increase in place, policymakers demonstrated their understanding of the urgency of expenses facing Catholic Charities and other providers.
During the pandemic, the agency has managed significant increases in service delivery costs. These include exponentially expanding the infrastructure required to provide telehealth programs; payroll costs for hazard pay, overtime, and temporary staffing to cover for sick or quarantined staff; and purchasing more than $250,000 of additional personal protective equipment. PPE needs are ongoing.
“Our work has not stopped during this national emergency,” said Catholic Charities Executive Director William J. McCarthy Jr. “It has been quite the opposite, in fact. In times of turmoil, Catholic Charities is called to expand and adapt our programming, rather than contract – just like our social safety net programs are designed to do. We fully expect these increased costs to continue through the duration of the pandemic and recovery for all providers of critical services.”
When the agency began advocating for the 4-percent increase, it was focused on responding to an increased demand for services. In 2018, for example, the agency provided behavioral health care to nearly 10,000 people – adults and children – in clinics, schools, homes, and other treatment sites. Given the extent of the needs, even before the pandemic, Catholic Charities faced difficult financial decisions around how to run high-quality programs and retain talented staff with extremely tight funding.
“Providers like ourselves are actually operating at deficits to cover these costs,” Family Services Division Director Kevin Keegan told the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee in February testimony.
Those costs have only grown in the face of COVID-19.
“The pandemic did not stop our ability to serve,” said McCarthy in comments submitted in June to the Commission to Study Mental and Behavioral Health in Maryland. “We quickly adjusted our program delivery model according to the best public health practices – often at great expense to our agency.”