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Pallone & Wyden Ask CMS for Information on Lead Screening Practices

Jun 24, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) sent a letter to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Acting Administrator Andrew M. Slavitt requesting additional information on Medicaid lead screening, and specifically, a policy established in 2012 allowing State Medicaid agencies to apply for a waiver from Medicaid’s universal childhood lead screening requirement and move to a targeted, risk-based screening approach.

Pointing to a recent Reuters investigation that reviewed data in nearly a dozen states that found just 41 percent of Medicaid-enrolled one and two year olds had been universally tested as required, the two top Democrats who oversee Medicaid also asked CMS for information on the agency’s efforts to ensure that Medicaid-eligible children are actually receiving regular blood lead screenings.

“While only one state thus far has been granted a waiver to move from universal to targeted screening, we strongly believe that, in light of the Flint crisis, it is important to closely review the transparency, ongoing reporting, and evaluation of such waivers,” wrote Pallone and Wyden. “Moreover, we also urge you to work broadly within the agency and with state partners to identify and support opportunities to improve lead screening adherence and lead abatement activities.”

Historically, the Early, Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit in Medicaid required that all children at both 12 and at 24 months of age be screened for blood lead levels. However, this policy was amended in 2012, allowing states to apply for a waiver to use a targeted approach for screening Medicaid-eligible children in certain states where data supported discontinuing universal screenings.

Lead exposure can cause serious damage to the heart, kidneys, reproductive system, brain and central nervous system.   Lead is particularly harmful to the developing brains and nervous systems of young children—even relatively low levels of exposure are associated with irreversible neurologic damage and the development of behavioral disorders.