April 13 Update

In This Week’s Update:

  • Additions to SHVS COVID-19 Resource Page
  • Federal Funding Opportunities
  • COVID-19 State Updates: AZ, MA, ME, MI, MN, NJ, OR, TX, WA
  • Other State Updates: LA, TN
  • Impact on Access to Care and Economic Opportunities for Communities of Color
  • Blueprint from Washington State to Respond to COVID-19
  • Stemming the Risk of Disability Bias During the COVID-19 Pandemic


Additions to SHVS COVID-19 Resource Page

Since launching COVID-19 Resources for States last Friday, the State Health and Value Strategies team has updated the site with new resources, including a wide array of state materials to make it easier to put together guidance on a given topic. SHVS continues to produce original content on the topic of COVID-19 and in the last week published:


Federal Funding Opportunities

  • The Administration for Community Living (ACL) opened a competitive funding opportunity for states and territories with Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs). ACL is making $50 million available to enable states and territories to support ADRCs in providing critical access functions to those populations most at risk of COVID-19 and mitigate adverse effects resulting from this national pandemic such as social isolation, limited access to nutritional supports, and personal care services. Awards range between $300,000 and $3,000,000, and applications are due by April 15, 2020.


COVID-19 State Updates

  • Addressing Social Risk Factors
    • Arizona – Governor Doug Ducey announced that Arizonans currently receiving food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will be able to use benefits for online food purchases with currently-authorized SNAP online retailers Walmart and Amazon.
    • Michigan – The state gained federal approval of the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program (P-EBT), a program that will provide food assistance to Michigan families with students ages 5 to 18 enrolled in the Michigan Department of Education program for students eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. The program will reach approximately 895,000 students, including families currently receiving Food Assistance Program benefits as well as those not currently enrolled in the program. 
    • Minnesota – Governor Tim Walz announced that CUB Foods and its parent company United Natural Foods Inc., in partnership with the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet, has set up an ordering process specifically for child care providers. CUB will leverage its extensive statewide supply chain network to allow child care providers serving children of emergency workers to secure needed products at convenient, flexible hours and locations.
    • Texas — Texas Health and Human Services announced Texas WIC, the supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children, is expanding the number of food items eligible for purchase through the program. It is also updating the MyTexasWIC app to ensure Texans who need access to nutritious food will be able to find it in their local grocery stores.
  • Bulletins and Notices to Providers and Insurers
    • Massachusetts – Governor Charlie Baker issued an emergency order mandating that insurers cover all medically required costs of COVID-19 treatment in out-of-network hospitals or other medical facilities with no charge to the patient, including co-pays, deductibles, and co-insurance payments.
    • Washington – The Office of the Insurance Commissioner released a frequently asked questions document that addresses questions related to the emergency orders released by the Commissioner.  
  • Expanding Workforce Capacity
    • Maine – Governor Janet Mills signed an Executive Order that takes additional steps to bolster the health care workforce, expand telehealth services, and temporarily alleviate certain licensing requirements, building upon the governor’s March 20 executive order.
    • Massachusetts – Governor Baker issued two emergency orders to further support the Commonwealth’s health care workforce and expand its capacity. The first order eases licensing restrictions for foreign-educated doctors to allow medical practice in the Commonwealth and the second expedites licensure of nursing students and graduates.
  • Health Equity
    • Massachusetts – The Department of Public Health issued an order designed to expand COVID-19 demographic reporting data, including race and ethnicity, to address disparities in the virus’ impact and support the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 response efforts. This order mandates all health care providers and labs to collect and report complete demographic information of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients.
    • Michigan – Governor Gretchen Whitmer created the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities. The task force, chaired by Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II, will consist of leaders across state government and health care professionals from communities most impacted by the spread of coronavirus and will provide the governor with recommendations on how to address disparities in the infection and mortality rates related to COVID-19. 
  • Special Enrollment Periods (SEP)  
    • Minnesota – MNsure, the state’s official health insurance marketplace, is reminding Minnesotans who have recently lost a job, experienced a reduction in hours, or are otherwise uninsured to visit MNsure.org to get connected to health insurance. On MNsure.org, Minnesotans looking for health insurance coverage can compare plans and see if they qualify for financial help to cover the cost of insurance premiums or low-cost or no-cost health insurance either through Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare.
  • Other
    • Arizona – Governor Doug Ducey announced that the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System will work with its provider partners to make available more than $50 million in accelerated hospital payments and advances and extend an additional $5 million in new COVID-19 related funding to Critical Access Hospitals throughout the state.
    • Massachusetts – The Baker-Polito Administration announced the creation of the COVID-19 Community Tracing Collaborative (CTC) to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Massachusetts. This initiative is a collaboration between the administration and Partners In Health. The initiative will focus on tracing the contacts of confirmed positive COVID-19 patients and supporting individuals in quarantine.
    • New Jersey – Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 123, extending grace periods during which certain insurance companies, including health insurers, life insurers, and property and casualty insurers, will not be able to cancel policies for nonpayment of premiums.
    • Oregon – Governor Kate Brown convened the first meeting of her COVID-19 Medical Advisory Panel last week. The group of doctors, infectious disease experts, and medical professionals from across the state will review the status of COVID-19 in the state and make recommendations to the governor on future response efforts.


Other State Updates

  • Louisiana – The Department of Health has named Ruth Johnson as the Medicaid director. Johnson joins the Department with more than 30 years of experience serving the public in various agencies of state government in Louisiana, South Carolina, and most recently in Texas. She joined the Department on April 6.
  • Tennessee – The state submitted an amendment to their section 1115 demonstration, TennCare II. Tennessee proposes to extend its Medication Therapy Management (MTM) pilot program for an additional 12 months, through the end of June 2021, to allow the state to gather additional data on the effectiveness of the MTM program. The federal public comment period will be open from April 7, 2020 through May 7, 2020.


Communities of Color at Higher Risk for Health and Economic Challenges due to COVID-19

The COVID-19 outbreak presents potential health and financial challenges for families, which may disproportionately affect communities of color and compound underlying health and economic disparities. A new Kaiser Family Foundation brief analyzes data on underlying health conditions, health coverage, health care access, and social and economic factors by race and ethnicity to provide insight into how the health and financial impacts of COVID-19 may vary across racial/ethnic groups.


On the Front Lines of COVID-19: A Blueprint for Health and Human Services from Washington State

Washington state reported the first COVID-19 case in the United States in January. In a new issue brief by the Milbank Fund, Susan Birch and MaryAnne Lindeblad of the Washington State Health Care Authority, which oversees care for 2.5 million Medicaid beneficiaries and public employees, and State Representative Eileen Cody outline the major initiatives taken by the state and the lessons learned over the past six weeks. The state highlights efforts taken to bolster care delivery; build community response at local, county, state, and federal levels; enhance access to care; and encourage coordination across all levels of government.


Stemming the Risk of Disability Bias During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised a number of ethical dilemmas related to equal access to health care diagnostic and treatment services. In doing so, it is shedding light on many populations that are uniquely impacted and compromised by this public health crisis—including people with disabilities. The Center for Health Care Strategies recently spoke with Lisa Iezzoni, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, to explore the treatment bias that people with disability may face in the current environment and consider opportunities to reduce potential discrimination. Dr. Iezzoni, who has used a wheelchair for more than 30 years because of multiple sclerosis, brings a unique personal and professional perspective to this issue.