by MICHAEL ARRIGO
During the holidays we think of the Magi, the Three Wise Men, Three Kings, or Kings from the East, who were, according to Christianity, a group of distinguished foreigners who visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
They are regular figures in traditional accounts of the nativity celebrations of Christmas and are an important part of the Christian tradition.
In healthcare, the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) introduces a new meaning for Magi, which is income definition—Modified Adjusted Gross Income (
MAGI) for determining Medicaid income eligibility across the country. MAGI, pronounced the same way as the Biblical term, will be a regular figure in future accounts of who has access to the best prices for health care coverage and will be relevant for Health Insurance Exchanges (HIX).
Here is why:
The adoption of MAGI, which is based on adjusted gross income as defined in the Internal Revenue Code §36B(d)(2), will standardize the calculation of income across the nation. Calculations include determination of MAGI with respect to Federal Poverty Level (“FPL”) and other considerations such as pregnancy, children, children’s age, and whether the applicant is a caretaker for other dependents.
Rules for determining income for Medicaid vary from state to state. Some states allow deductions that are not allowed in others. Additionally, since income will be based on an income tax definition, family size and household income will be based on tax filing unit, which is a change from the current methodology used by Medicaid.
MAGI introduces a new type of eligibility system. State Medicaid organizations across the U.S. have been working to determine whether they can extend their existing Medicaid Management Information System (“MMIS”) to leverage their existing know how and and possibly IT infrastructure to implement MAGI. In some cases, States have opted to switch from a monolithic MMIS strategy to best of breed or Common Off the Shelf (COTS) solutions they can hopefully bolt on to the MMIS. We have seen some unreasonably complex RFPs in the past year that show State CIOs and their staff are struggling to put their arms around how much is needed to deal with MAGI.
Other types of eligibility systems in production include:
- TANF – Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (formerly AFDC)
- SNAP – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps)
- Medicaid – free and low-cost health care to low income families
- CHIP – Children’s Health Insurance Program (Medicaid for kids)
- Energy Assistance – low income home energy assistance
- Women, Infants & Children (WIC) – nutritional supplement for pregnant women, infants and children (until school age)
Other State human services systems include:
- SACWIS – child abuse and neglect, foster care, adoption
- Child Support Enforcement – collection from non custodial parents
- SDU – state disbursement unit for child support payments
- EBT – electronic benefits transmission for cash assistance
These eligibility and reporting systems will be integral to various human services capabilities for each state. State HIX systems will rely on some of these factors when pricing health plans to the public.