April 19 Update

In This Week’s Update:

  • CMS Administrator Hearing
  • Black Maternal Health Week Announcement
  • Resources on American Rescue Plan Act
  • COVID-19 State Updates: AZ, KS, MA, NJ, WI
  • Other State Updates: CA, DC, IL, MA, MD, MN, NE, NJ, OK, PA, WI
  • Expanding Affordable Coverage Options
  • Health Care Pricing Transparency
  • Building Healthier Communities Together Town Hall


CMS Administrator Hearing

Last week the Senate Finance Committee held its hearing to consider the nomination of Chiquita Brooks-LaSure as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). A recording of the hearing is available.


Black Maternal Health Week Announcement

In recognition of Black Maternal Health Week, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced a Notice of Funding Opportunity making $12 million available over four years for the Rural Maternity and Obstetrics Management Strategies program. For the first time, applicants are required to focus on populations that have historically suffered from poorer health outcomes, health disparities, and other inequities.


Resources on American Rescue Plan Act

State Health and Value Strategies (SHVS) published an issue brief on the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that evaluates the fiscal impact of the five percentage point increase in Federal Medical Assistance Percentage for states that elect to expand Medicaid. The brief describes the ARPA matching rate provision and also assesses its fiscal impact for each of the states that have not yet expanded Medicaid, while comparing the available new federal dollars to the cost of expansion. SHVS also updated its expert perspective COBRA Assistance in the American Rescue Plan Act: A Guide for States to include links to new resources released by the Department of Labor.


COVID-19 State Updates: AZ, KS, MA, NJ, WI

  • Arizona – The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, in partnership with Crisis Response Network, announced a new COVID-19 appointment and transportation navigation program for Medicaid members. Medicaid members who need assistance scheduling a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, as well as assistance with transportation to and from that appointment, can call the designated hotline to schedule an appointment with a trained navigator.
  • Kansas – Gov. Laura Kelly kicked off the first COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Taskforce meeting last week to promote equitable vaccine distribution in vulnerable communities across Kansas. The group is tasked with breaking down barriers to vaccinations such as access, transportation, language barriers, or misinformation, and providing information and messages that resonate with Kansans who have questions about the vaccine.
  • Massachusetts – The Baker-Polito administration announced “Red Sox Week” at the Hynes Convention Center to increase access to vaccines for communities who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Red Sox Week at the Hynes will take place from April 19-25, with 20,000 first-dose vaccination appointments being booked for communities of color. Grassroots outreach efforts began this week to fill the appointments.
  • New Jersey – The Murphy administration announced that individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing are able to ask for an American Sign Language interpreter when receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at the state’s six vaccine mega-sites to assist with communication access during the vaccination process.
  • Wisconsin – The Department of Health Services released improvements to its COVID-19 hospital data webpage. This update puts all COVID-19 hospital data on one page and includes two data dashboards. The COVID-19 hospital capacity dashboard has been expanded to include more information about the status of hospitals throughout Wisconsin. Additionally, data about the percentage of COVID-19 cases that are health care workers has been consolidated into one dashboard.


Other State Updates: CA, DC, IL, MA, MD, MN, NE, NJ, OK, PA, WI

  • California – Covered California, the state-based marketplace, launched a new special enrollment period (SEP) last week to allow Californians to benefit from lower health insurance premiums available through the ARPA. Along with the new SEP, the agency launched a new statewide ad campaign to show consumers how the new financial assistance could help them and encourages them to check out their options on CoveredCA.com. The SEP runs through the end of the year.
  • District of Columbia – The DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority is urging District of Columbia residents to take advantage of potential lower health insurance premiums available through the ARPA. On March 29, the District opened its online health insurance marketplace, DC Health Link, with expanded health insurance benefits provided by the ARPA. 
  • Illinois – CMS approved Illinois’ request to amend its Section 1115 demonstration waiver to enable the state to provide full Medicaid coverage to postpartum women with incomes up to 208 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) for 12 months. The state will also provide continuous eligibility for women during the entire postpartum period, ensuring continuity of coverage.
  • Maryland – Gov. Larry Hogan signed three bills into law related to expanding access to telehealth and mental health services. HB 123 requires private insurers, other carriers, and the Medicaid program to reimburse providers for telehealth services provided via audio-only modalities. HB 812 requires the Maryland Department of Health, in consultation with 2-1-1 Maryland, to make certain recommendations relating to the establishment of an opt-in mental health services phone call program. And HB 1280 establishes the Maryland Behavioral Health and Public Safety Center of Excellence within the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth, and Victim Services.
  • Massachusetts – The Massachusetts Health Connector, the Massachusetts state-based marketplace, published a press release on the new information from the Internal Revenue Service on tax relief for people who received help paying for premium costs through the Health Connector in 2020. SHVS also published template language for state-based marketplaces to adapt and use in consumer-facing communications.
  • Minnesota  
    • The Minnesota Department of Human Services awarded almost $1 million to 10 service providers to support people with disabilities to live and engage with others in their communities and access housing and improved employment opportunities.
    • Gov. Tim Walz appointed Grace Arnold as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Commerce, which includes oversight of the state’s division of insurance. 
  • Nebraska – Tobacco Free Nebraska and the Nebraska Tobacco Quitline are offering qualified Nebraskans who call 1-800-QUIT-NOW a free four-week supply of medication to help quit smoking (gum, patch, or lozenges) mailed directly to their home. This campaign is in association with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tips from Former Smokers campaign.
  • New Jersey
    • Gov. Phil Murphy announced new state and federal financial help will be available at Get Covered New Jersey, the state’s official health insurance marketplace, beginning April 15. On top of the federal tax credits, the state is providing new and expanded financial help to residents shopping for coverage at Get Covered New Jersey. State subsidies, called New Jersey Health Plan Savings, will now be available for residents with incomes up to 600 percent of the FPL, up from the previous 400 percent FPL threshold. This was made possible due to the new federal savings, which allowed New Jersey to reallocate a portion of the funding previously provided for state subsidies to increase and expand subsidies to help more people.
    • The Murphy administration announced the expansion of the Opioid Reduction Option program that aims to reduce the amount of opioids provided to patients in emergency rooms and prescribed when they are discharged. The Department of Human Services announced a total of $1,125,000 in grants will be available to approximately 12 health care facilities to help develop and implement practices to reduce unnecessary opioid use.
  • Oklahoma – The Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) is providing additional clarification regarding the significant changes coming to the state’s Medicaid program. Those who are now eligible under the expanded eligibility guidelines as a result of Medicaid expansion can apply for SoonerCare on June 1, and benefits for those who qualify will begin on July 1. Additionally, on Oct. 1, OHCA will transition to a managed care service delivery model called SoonerSelect.
  • Pennsylvania – Gov. Tom Wolf announced a partnership, developed by the Department of Human Services and the Department of Corrections, that will better connect people who are being released from state correctional institutions with opioid use disorder treatment by connecting them to treatment through one of Pennsylvania’s Centers of Excellence. This process will provide a seamless transition into community-based treatment.
  • Wisconsin – The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) announced the Recovery Residence Registry, which will serve as the DHS referral source for those seeking recovery housing options. Recovery residences provide a home-like environment free from alcohol and illicit drug use with a focus on peer support. In addition, recovery housing can connect residents to outpatient services and other recovery support services, as well as assist with efforts to access employment and health services.


State Action Related to COVID-19 Relief: Expanding Access to Affordable Coverage Options

To address the COVID-19 pandemic, many states and the federal government have stepped up to fill gaps in private health insurance, ensure access to critical services, and expand affordable insurance options. Georgetown’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms has created a map for the Commonwealth Fund that summarizes the actions of states that are requiring or recommending insurers expand their coverage of key services beyond the minimum federal standard or existing state standard, and to implement key provisions of federal COVID-19 relief legislation. The map will continue to be updated as states take action to expand access.


Strategies for Providing Consumers User-Friendly Health Care Pricing: Recommendations from New York State

Rising health care costs and steep increases in the portion of medical bills that consumers across the nation face point to a need for greater price transparency. Yet it is hard for patients and families to find meaningful, comparative information about health care prices before receiving services. In 2020 Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed the New York State Department of Health to create a consumer-friendly website, NYHealthcareCompare, where New Yorkers would be able to easily compare the cost, volume, and quality of common health care services and procedures. The United Hospital Fund (UHF) has published a report that synthesizes the findings of a workgroup UHF was contracted by the state to convene to identify the most effective ways to present meaningful and user-friendly pricing information for New York consumers. The workgroup represented a broad range of stakeholders, including health care consumers, providers, payers, and other experts. Over eight months, participants deliberated over the most effective strategies to provide New York consumers with meaningful and user-friendly pricing information.


Building Healthier Communities Together Town Hall

SHVS Deputy Director Dan Meuse will be participating in a town hall, Building Healthier Communities Together, hosted by Unite Us on Thursday, April 22. This town hall will be the first in a new series designed to catalyze innovation and paradigm shifts in the health and social care sectors. Dr. Rebekah Gee, former Secretary of Health of Louisiana, will provide the keynote followed by three panels of experts who will discuss moving from theoretical frameworks to measurable outcomes. Meuse will be joined by Chris Koller, the President of the Milbank Memorial Fund, as a panelist for a discussion on evidence-based community action frameworks.