New Year, New Medicaid Changes!

As we ring in a new year, new changes are happening in Nebraska Medicaid. Below are a number of new policies Nebraska Medicaid is expected to implement in 2024.

For individuals who qualify for Medicaid’s pregnancy category, postpartum coverage was previously only available for the first 60 days after birth. Starting January 1, 2024, postpartum coverage will be extended to 12 months after birth. Nebraska joins a growing majority of states to extend coverage to ensure access to care during the critical postpartum period. Extending Medicaid postpartum coverage can also help address disparate coverage outcomes, as coverage loss under the old rules unevenly impacts Black, American Indian and Alaska Native and Hispanic Nebraskans. 

Starting January 1, 2024, federal law requires state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to keep kids up to age 19 continuously enrolled in coverage, even if income or other eligibility changes occur in the 12-month period. Continuous eligibility helps children maintain consistent care and also helps combat unnecessary coverage losses and gaps in coverage. This change will also reduce administrative burdens for Nebraska families, providers, managed care organizations, and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). 

Medicaid eligibility renewals restarted in March 2023 and will continue in 2024. For the first time in years, Medicaid enrollees may lose coverage as DHHS conducts renewals. Find more information at our Medicaid renewal website, and share your story here!

Starting in 2024, Nebraska Medicaid dental coverage will be administered by the three Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) that administer other health services. Previously, dental coverage was administered by a separate MCO that provided dental coverage only. In 2024, dental coverage will be integrated with other coverage, and Medicaid enrollees will access health and dental coverage through the same plan. 

DHHS has submitted a state plan amendment and proposed regulations that propose to make a number of changes to Medicaid dental coverage. 

  • Removal of Adult Dental Cap: The new changes propose to remove the $750 annual cap on dental services for adults enrolled in Medicaid. Removing caps on dental services can help prevent severe, costly, emergent disease. Removing the cap will improve access to dental care for patients and allow Medicaid providers to provide more comprehensive treatment.
  • Medicaid Reimbursement for Public Health Dental Hygienists: The proposed changes have added licensed Public Health Dental Hygienists (PHDH), who can provide certain dental services independent from a dentist, as reimbursable Medicaid dental providers for some oral health services. Ensuring that dental hygienists are able to bill Medicaid at the top of their licensed scope of practice will increase critical access to dental care for patients who need services in a wide variety of settings.
  • Proposed Elimination of Teledentistry: Unfortunately, the proposed dental changes also eliminate references to teledentistry. Telehealth appointments can increase the geographic range a provider can cover, and can reduce travel time for patients. Opportunities to bolster telehealth to reduce transportation barriers will help keep kids in school and adults at work. Low-income Nebraskans across the state encounter challenges accessing dental care due to cost, lack of local providers who take Medicaid patients, especially in rural areas, and transportation issues. Telehealth has allowed oral health providers to expand their reach and meet patients in their communities. Telehealth is a critical tool to improve access to dental care and the Medicaid regulations should continue to ensure the availability of this tool.

Learn more about access to dental care in Nebraska Medicaid by reviewing our 2022 Dental Policy Brief and 2023 Dental Access Update.

Effective January 1, 2024, Healthy Blue will no longer be a Managed Care Organization (MCO). A new MCO, Molina, will join Nebraska Total Care and UnitedHealthcare, which have been administering Medicaid plans in recent years. Enrollees with Healthy Blue had until December 15, 2023 to choose which MCO they would like to use, otherwise any enrollees remaining with Healthy Blue will automatically transition to Molina for 2024.

Former DHHS Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dannette Smith resigned, effective August 4, 2023. Dr. Steve Corsi was appointed as CEO on August 16, 2023. 

Kevin Bagley, former director of Medicaid and Long-Term Care (MLTC) for DHHS resigned effective December 1, 2023. Matt Ahern will serve as interim director of MLTC until a permanent appointment is made.

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