January 17 Update

In This Week’s Update:

  • Public Health Emergency Extension
  • Healthcare.gov Enrollment Data 
  • COVID-19 Testing Reimbursement 
  • Crisis Intervention Services
  • Low-Income Parents’ Access to Needed Care
  • Improving Data on Race and Ethnicity
  • State Updates: MA, MD, ME, MN, NV, NY, OR, PA, VT & WA

Public Health Emergency Extension

Last week, the Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra renewed the COVID-19 public health emergency, extending it to April 15, 2022. As a reminder, State Health & Value Strategies (SHVS) has two one-stop resources related to the pandemic: a COVID-19 resource page and resources for states on unwinding the Medicaid continuous coverage requirement.

Healthcare.gov Enrollment Data

Also last week, CMS announced that 14.2 million Americans enrolled in coverage for 2022 through healthcare.gov, the highest ever number of sign-ups since the launch of healthcare.gov. The annual open enrollment period is now closed. 

COVID-19 Testing Reimbursement 

SHVS published an expert perspective on guidance related to reimbursement for over-the-counter COVID-19 tests. Health insurers will be subject to new federal requirements to cover and waive cost-sharing, enabling consumers to obtain tests directly from pharmacies or online retailers without being seen by a health professional.

Crisis Intervention Services

SHVS also released an expert perspective that reviews new CMS guidance on community-based mobile crisis intervention services. For those interested in additional resources on the design of community-based mobile crisis intervention services, SHVS published an issue brief on the funding available under the American Rescue Plan and another brief that explores a hybrid funding and coverage model for universal access to mobile crisis services.

Parents with Low Incomes Faced Greater Challenges Accessing and Affording Needed Health Care The Urban Institute released a new report which draws on the April 2021 Health Reform Monitoring Survey to assess health status, health insurance coverage, healthcare access and affordability, and concerns about other basic needs among nonelderly parents. The report finds that while parents at various income levels faced health challenges and problems accessing and affording healthcare, parents with low incomes faced particularly steep challenges that could compound the other hardships they were experiencing before the pandemic.

Improving Data on Race and EthnicityLarge percentages of race and ethnicity data are missing from federal and state health programs. To identify the barriers and opportunities, Grantmakers In Health, in collaboration with the National Committee for Quality Assurance, interviewed a variety of stakeholders across the country, representing all levels of the health system. The second of two reports, Improving Data on Race and Ethnicity: A Roadmap to Measure and Advance Health Equity, builds on an earlier report, Federal Action Is Needed to Improve Race and Ethnicity Data in Health Programs, by providing more details about race and ethnicity data collection in federally administered health programs and an expanded list of recommendations for improving the data.

State Updates

  • Maine – The state’s Department of Health and Human Services announced the promotion of Meg Garrett Reed from senior advisor for coverage and affordability to director of the Office of the Health Insurance Marketplace (OHIM) in recognition of her instrumental role in the transition of CoverME.gov to a state-based health insurance marketplace. Garratt-Reed has served as acting director of OHIM since its establishment earlier this year. 
  • Maryland – Governor Larry Hogan announced the locations for six additional hospital-based testing sites that will open by the end of next week. The governor also announced that the Maryland Department of Health will begin distributing 20 million N95 and KN95 masks to Marylanders next week at no cost, through multiple channels, including local health departments, state-run testing and vaccination sites, and nursing homes.
  • Massachusetts – The Baker-Polito Administration announced an order was placed with iHealth to supply the state with 26 million rapid antigen tests over the next three months. The tests will be prioritized to support K through 12 schools and child care settings. The agreement allows for shipments of tests to arrive on a rolling basis in the Commonwealth, but the administration warns that the timing and shipment amounts will vary depending on international shipping and production variables.
  • Minnesota
    • The Minnesota Department of Human Services announced that the state is boosting Medicaid dental reimbursement rates as part of a $61 million package aimed at improving access to dental care. The increased rates were effective beginning January 1, 2022.
    • Governor Tim Walz announced new measures to address severe staffing shortages, providing funding for staffing in nursing homes and group homes and for in-home services for people with disabilities. The Minnesota Department of Human Services will exercise emergency authority under state law to expedite Medicaid funding to nursing homes and direct support services for people with disabilities. This step, which requires federal approval, will make up to $83 million in state and federal funds available to cover emergency costs that will help providers maintain their workforce.
  • Nevada – Governor Steve Sisolak announced that more than half a million take-home rapid COVID-19 tests are on the way to the state and will be available to those in high-need communities. The tests are expected to arrive toward the end of the month and the first deliveries will be made directly to community partners.
  • New York – Governor Kathy Hochul announced a new campaign to increase vaccination rates among children five and older, urging pediatricians, parents, and guardians to help children get vaccinated and keep up with all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses. The multifaceted #VaxForKids effort includes new marketing efforts to reach parents and guardians in English and Spanish, including advertising on television, radio, and digital. As part of the effort, a new PSA featuring Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett will launch statewide with a focus on reaching parents and guardians of children five to eleven.
  • Oregon – With the surge of COVID-19 cases, Oregon Governor Kate Brown has ordered an increase of National Guard service members for the second hospital relief mission. This new activation of the Oregon National Guard is an increase from 500 to over 1,200 service members in 40 hospitals across the state. National Guard members will provide much-needed support for understaffed hospitals during this deployment, which will begin no later than January 18, 2022.
  • Pennsylvania – Governor Tom Wolf signed legislation to expand eligibility in the Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly (PACE) and the Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly Needs Enhancement Tier (PACENET) programs. PACE and PACENET currently enroll more than 250,000 older Pennsylvanians. The income limit expansions mean that an additional 100,000 older adults are now eligible with an expected 20,000 older adults expected to enroll in 2022. Enrollment begins in February.
  • Vermont – Through a partnership with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Amazon, Vermonters were able to place an order for free rapid tests. All 350,000 tests available through the first phase of the state’s “Say Yes” rapid test pilot program were ordered by the end of the day of their release to the public. The tests will be delivered to homes over the next one to two weeks.
  • Washington – With COVID-19 cases rising, Governor Jay Inslee announced a variety of tools to help support hospitals including, deploying the Washington State National Guard, putting a pause on non-urgent medical procedures, additional efforts to discharge patients into long-term care facilities and additional resources for healthcare workers.