June 28 Update

In This Week’s Update:

  • Medicaid and CHIP Enrollment
  • Expanded Funds for State-Based Marketplaces
  • State updates: AZ, CA, CO, CT, GA, IN, KY, MN, NE,NJ, PA, & WI
  • State Health Care Cost Benchmarking Models
  • Native Americans and Health Equity
  • Oversight on Health Care Provider Consolidation


Medicaid and CHIP Enrollment 

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a new Enrollment Trends Snapshot report showing over 80 million individuals have health coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Nearly 9.9 million individuals enrolled in coverage between February 2020 and January 2021, a 13.9 percent increase. 


 Expanded Funds for State-Based Marketplaces

CMS also announced $20 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) funding to support state-based marketplaces to improve access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance coverage for consumers. States can apply for funding to help modernize or update their systems, programs, or technology to comply with federal Marketplace requirements, including the recent provisions increasing the financial assistance available to certain beneficiaries.


Related Resource: Highlights of the Buying Value Benchmark Repository: Innovative Homegrown Measures


COVID-19 Updates

  • Colorado – The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing announced that it is issuing $16 million in enhanced payments to Medicaid nursing home providers to support industry stabilization following the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. These funds are aimed to support continued infection prevention efforts and rising costs of direct care staffing. The governor signed an Executive Order moving this process forward.
  • Minnesota – The state is partnering with leaders representing all aspects of Minnesota life – including the arts, business and civic community, sports, and elected officials – to raise awareness about the importance of getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Leaders will engage directly with Minnesotans across the state, highlighting the benefits of getting vaccinated to each community. 
  • Nebraska – The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services introduced a new platform called “Share Y​our Shot,” an interactive and informative map where Nebraskans throughout the state can share their experiences about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. The interactive map will allow people seeking more information about the vaccine to review pictures and stories from friends, families, and neighbors on their safe vaccination experiences. 
  • Pennsylvania – First Lady Frances Wolf and Acting Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson moderated a panel discussion on vaccine safety for teens and young adults. The panel, hosted by the Governor’s Advisory Commission on African American Affairs, entitled Vax Facts: Teen Edition, was the fifth event in a series that seeks to provide relevant and accurate information about COVID-19 vaccines and address the questions and concerns of citizens. 
  • Wisconsin – Governor Tony Evers and the Department of Health Services announced convenient and free COVID-19 testing support for Wisconsin schools in the 2021-2022 school year. The new program connects schools with testing partners to handle the on-site COVID-19 testing for teachers, staff, students, and their families.


Other State Updates 

  • Arizona – CMS sent a letter to the state withdrawing the community engagement authorities added in the January 2019 amendment approval for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System demonstration, noting the requirement may lead to a loss in coverage for certain Medicaid beneficiaries.
  • California
    • Covered California, the state-based marketplace, announced that it has enrolled a record 1.6 million people, as thousands of consumers sign up for coverage due to the lower premiums provided by the ARP. New data shows that over 139,000 people have signed up for a health plan through Covered California since the expanded financial assistance became available on April 12. 
    • Governor Gavin Newsom announced the Governor’s Advisory Council on Physical Fitness and Mental Well-Being, a new advisory council tasked with exploring healthy strategies to help Californians thrive. The Advisory Council will be led and convened by First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Ronnie Lott.
  • Connecticut – Governor Ned Lamont signed legislation establishing the Covered Connecticut program, which authorizes additional premium and cost-sharing subsidies for those with incomes up to 175 percent of the federal poverty level.
  • Georgia – The Georgia Department of Public Health is seeking public comment on the Georgia Fiscal Year 2021 Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant, aiming to garner Georgians’ input on the grant’s work plan and deliverables. 
  • Indiana – CMS sent a letter to the state withdrawing the community engagement authorities that were conditionally approved in the state’s extension approval of the Healthy Indiana Plan demonstration from last fall, citing the potential for Medicaid beneficiaries to lose coverage during the public health emergency. 
  • Kentucky – The Kentucky Governor’s Office of Early Childhood (GOEC) will receive nearly $6 million in additional funds from the annual Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement to support high-quality, early experiences for children and families throughout the state. GOEC’s Early Childhood Advisory Council will direct funding to communities through the Community Early Childhood Council’s grant program, helping young children prepare for kindergarten. 
  • New Jersey – As part of her Nurture NJ initiative, First Lady Tammy Murphy launched a series of Mini Family Festivals to connect families with state, county, and local programs and resources to address New Jersey’s maternal and infant health crisis. The Mini Family Festival series will occur at hospitals and federally qualified health centers throughout New Jersey, taking a targeted approach to reach families already accessing these health care providers and can further connect with additional resources and services.
  • Wisconsin – The Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced its state-funded network of drop-in centers offering support to people experiencing mental health and substance use challenges is expanding to 11 locations under new peer recovery center grants awarded by the Department. 


State Benchmarking Models: Promising Practices to Understand and Address Health Care Cost Growth

As states grow increasingly concerned with rising health care costs, establishing health care cost growth benchmarking programs can provide a structure and process for increasing health system transparency and developing strategies for containing costs. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Manatt Health released a white paper exploring the evolution of cost growth benchmarking programs across a growing list of states. The white paper presents the history of benchmarking programs, shares the five common features of benchmarking programs, provides emerging use cases, and highlights opportunities for standardization. 


Related resource: State Cost Growth Benchmarking Models


Native Americans & Health Equity

The National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation released an infographic describing the impact of COVID-19 on Native American populations. Native Americans have been hospitalized from COVID-19 at 3.3 times the rate of White Americans. The disproportionate experience of this community and across many communities of color can be linked to underlying social and economic inequities. In the Navajo Nation, one-third of residents do not have access to running water and/or electricity and face challenges accessing broadband. These challenges, rooted in the historical impacts of colonization, directly impacted the ability of many Tribal Nations to follow COVID-19 safety protocols and access key virtual health care services. The infographic discusses the inequities illuminated during the pandemic and how to address such disparities. 


Who Can Rein in Health Care Prices? State and Federal Efforts to Address Health Care Provider Consolidation

Increasingly, hospitals have merged to form dominant health systems that can exert market power and charge anti-competitive prices, which reduce wage growth and burden the economy. This trend contributes to health care cost growth that exceeds wage and economic increases. Effective oversight of market conduct requires collaboration between state and federal policymakers. A new issue brief by the Milbank Memorial Fund, the first in a series of three briefs, describes federal and state policies to address the consequences of health care provider concentration through increased price transparency, improved merger review, oversight of anticompetitive conduct, and increased competition through a public option.