December 13 Update

In This Week’s Update:

  • HHS Actions on Maternal Health
  • 4.6 Million Gain Insurance Via Open Enrollment Period
  • Increasing COVID-19 Vaccination Rates in Medicaid
  • Use of Race in Clinical Diagnosis and Its Implications  
  • Protecting Youth Mental Health
  • State Updates: AZ, CT, MA, ME, MN, NY, NV, OH, OR, TN & WI


HHS Actions on Maternal Health

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a new state health official letter to provide guidance to states on implementation of the state option available under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to provide 12 months of extended postpartum coverage to pregnant individuals enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP beginning April 1, 2022. This letter follows the release of a report by HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation estimating that if every state expanded Medicaid postpartum coverage to 12 months, the number of Americans getting coverage for a full year postpartum would roughly double, extending coverage for an estimated 720,000 in a given year. CMS also announced it intends to propose a “Birthing-Friendly” designation to hospitals to drive improvements in perinatal health outcomes and maternal health equity. The designation would initially identify hospitals that provide perinatal care, are participating in a maternity care quality improvement collaborative, and have implemented recommended patient safety practices.


4.6 Million Gain Insurance Via Open Enrollment Period 

CMS released the latest monthly report on the open enrollment period (OEP). So far, nearly 4.6 million Americans have signed up for 2022 health coverage through and state-based marketplaces since the start of the 2022 OEP on November 1. As a result of the assistance from ARPA, the number of consumers getting coverage for $10 or less per month after tax credits nearly doubled compared to this time last year. Additionally, ninety-five percent of consumers in states are receiving premium tax credits to lower the cost of their monthly premiums. 


Strategies to Increase COVID-19 Vaccination Rates in Medicaid Enrollees: Considerations for State Leaders

The National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) published a new report that explores how states are tackling the challenge of identifying gaps in vaccine access among their Medicaid populations and provides examples of promising strategies to improve COVID-19 vaccination rates among Medicaid enrollees. State-level data indicate that COVID-19 vaccination rates are lower among people covered by Medicaid than the general population. With the development of additional variants of concern, such as Omicron, there is an urgent need to build vaccine confidence amongst those who remain unvaccinated. 

Use of Race in Clinical Diagnosis and Decision Making: Overview and Implications

The Kaiser Family Foundation published an issue brief that examines the use of racial classification in medical care and teaching and identifies how these practices can contribute to ongoing racial disparities in health and healthcare. There are growing efforts within the medical community to examine and revise the use of race in medical care and training and to acknowledge the role of racism in shaping treatment. The brief summarizes how the medical and scientific community have used race to explain differences in health despite there being no biologic basis to race and how race continues to be used in medical diagnosis and decision-making. It explores several ways race impacts medical care and teaching and discusses the implications for health and healthcare disparities and efforts to advance health equity.


Protecting Youth Mental Health: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy released an Advisory that offers recommendations for supporting the mental health of children, adolescents, and young adults. The Advisory includes essential recommendations for the institutions that surround young people and shape their day-to-day lives—schools, community organizations, healthcare systems, technology companies, media, funders and foundations, employers, and government. The Advisory also highlights the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the mental health of children and youth and highlights actions stakeholders can take to mitigate the negative impacts of the pandemic on youth mental health.


State Updates


  • Arizona – The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System announced that it received a 90-day extension from the federal government on a grant that funds the Crisis Counseling Program and, extending services through March 2, 2022. The program, free to any Arizona resident affected by COVID-19, offers confidential support services from the existing 2-1-1 statewide information and referral phone number, in English and Spanish.
  • Connecticut – Governor Ned Lamont announced the launch of a new state program that will provide $2.7 million to colleges and universities in Connecticut as they respond to student mental health challenges driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. Funding is being supported by the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, which utilizes federal coronavirus relief aid. The Connecticut Campus Mental Health Program will provide awards to eligible higher education institutions to enhance student access to care; boost education and awareness of mental health services and programs available to students; and equip staff and students with knowledge for supporting students with mental illnesses, particularly those from under-resourced communities.
  • Maine – The Department of Health and Human Services announced it is extending the deadline for providers of MaineCare Home-and Community-Based Care services to register for supplemental recruitment and retention payments to direct support workers and their supervisors through December 17, 2021.
  • Massachusetts – MassHealth released two Requests for Information (RFIs) related to health equity. The first seeks ideas from members and other stakeholders to help inform and strengthen MassHealth’s efforts to engage with members directly on issues related to health equity and more broadly. The second RFI seeks information about health equity and social risk factor data collection and the identification, prioritization, and reduction of health and healthcare disparities, and related accountability. The deadline for responses is December 17, 2021.
  • Minnesota – Governor Tim Walz announced a new initiative to recruit, train, and deploy at least 1,000 new certified nursing assistants for Minnesota long-term care facilities experiencing staffing shortages by the end of January. The Walz-Flanagan Administration is aiming to use ARP funding to pay for qualifying expenses associated with certified nursing assistants’ courses to ensure these courses are available at no-cost to students.
  • New York – Governor Kathy Hochul announced the selection of six mental health providers to receive up to $9 million over five years to support community programs that identify and assist adults age 55 or older whose independence or survival in the community is in jeopardy because of a mental health, substance use, or aging-related concern. 
  • Nevada The Interim Finance Committee of the Nevada Legislature approved more than $660,000 in ARP funds for the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Child and Family Services to support children’s mental health in the state through the Children’s Mobile Crisis Response Team. The allocated funds will be used to hire additional staff to support youth and families who have been impacted by the pandemic.
  • Oregon
    • The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) released the first draft of the state’s Medicaid 1115 waiver renewal application. The draft includes plans to improve access and equity; provide defined benefits packages of social determinants of health to members during times of transition, including pre-release coverage for institutionalized individuals; move to paying for population health; invest in community-based care; and align with the healthcare priorities of tribal governments. OHA will accept public comments through January 7, 2022.
    • Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division announced a new funding opportunity for community-based organizations. This funding aims to keep racial equity in the forefront of public health work and to center the strengths and wisdom of communities. OHA is seeking grant applications from community-based organizations that will create partnerships with communities of color, tribal communities, disability communities, immigrant and refugee communities, undocumented communities, migrant and seasonal farmworkers, LGBTQIA+ communities, faith communities, older adults, houseless communities, and others. Grant applications can be submitted now through January 31, 2022.
  • Tennessee – The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) and TennCare published the Public Behavioral Health Workforce Workgroup report. The document contains research, data, and strategies for addressing workforce challenges in publicly funded mental health and substance use services. Convened by TDMHSAS and TennCare over the summer, the workgroup was comprised of diverse stakeholders from public behavioral health provider organizations, mental health and addiction advocacy groups, colleges, and universities, and the TDMHSAS Planning and Policy Council. 
  • Wisconsin – The Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced $8.1 million in grants has been awarded to organizations across the state to promote health equity in COVID-19 vaccination throughout the state. The investment aims to increase vaccinations by supporting organizations to serve as trusted messengers within their communities.