June 6 Update

In This Week’s Update:

  • New SHVS Expert Perspective: State Medicaid Strategies
  • Racism As A Barrier to Health Equity
  • CMS Extends Deadline to Use ARP Funding 
  • State of Babies Yearbook
  • Mental Healthcare: Addressing Inequities In Quality
  • State Updates: AZ, CO, DE, IL, LA, MT, NC, WI & WV

Last week, State Health and Value Strategies published a new expert perspective, Ensuring Continuity of Coverage and Care for High Need Enrollees When the Medicaid Continuous Coverage Ends: Medicaid Strategies. The first in a two-part series, the EP outlines strategies state Medicaid agencies can take to identify people with high health needs and provide them with additional support to retain or transition their health coverage so they are able to maintain access to essential healthcare services when the Medicaid continuous coverage requirement ends. Also, CMS released a new tool that states can use to prepare for the end of the continuous coverage requirement when the PHE ends. The tool highlights 10 fundamental actions states need to complete to prepare for unwinding. As a reminder, SHVS has a resource page for state officials on the PHE unwinding, which is continuously updated.

CMS announced that states will have an additional year—through March 31, 2025—to use funding made available by the American Rescue Plan (ARP) to enhance, expand, and strengthen home- and community-based (HCBS) services for people with Medicaid who need long-term services and supports. As a reminder, SHVS published an issue brief on the ARP’s HCBS enhanced federal medical assistance percentage provision, CMS’s implementation guidance, and considerations for state policymakers.

Understanding Racism as a Barrier to Achieving Health Equity

Dr. Alonzo Plough, Chief Science Officer of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and editor of the book Necessary Conversations: Understanding Racism as a Barrier to Achieving Health Equity, will model how to talk about structural racism on Wednesday, June 15. The webinar will also offer insight into how health equity is the operational focus of the Foundation’s work. During the webinar, participants will gain an understanding of how to advocate for health equity and justice, learn how to create space for those with lived experiences to drive decision making, and hear why RWJF is embracing new research and evaluation strategies to measure solutions. Registration information is available here.

State of Babies Yearbook

ZERO TO THREE recently released the State of Babies Yearbook: 2022, part of the organization’s Think Babies initiative to make the potential of every baby a national priority. The state in which a baby is born and lives in their first three years can make a difference in whether they have a strong start in life. Even more critical than the apparent geographic differences are the disparate experiences among babies of different races, ethnicities, and income levels, with inequities starting even before birth. Often driven by systemic racism, these disparities persist even in states where babies overall are doing better than in other states. Grounded in the science of early childhood development, the State of Babies Yearbook provides national and state-by-state views of how America’s babies and their families are faring, according to more than 60 indicators in ZERO TO THREE’s policy framework of Good Health, Strong Families, and Positive Early Learning Experiences.

Addressing Inequities in the Quality of Mental Healthcare

Researchers and policymakers are increasingly acknowledging the importance of addressing racial and ethnic inequities in mental health. While attention has been directed toward increasing diversity in the mental health workforce to improve quality of care for Black, Indigenous, and people of color, more immediate solutions are needed. In a new Milbank Memorial Fund blog post, researchers detail alternative, immediate-term policy approaches to improve quality of care, such as cultural humility training for mental health providers and required assessments of the influence of race and culture on a client’s mental health.

 State Updates

  • Arizona – The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System director Jami Snyder spoke with KJZZ’s The Show about the impact of the public health emergency on Arizona’s Medicaid program and what enrollees can do to prepare for the renewal process, expected to begin later this year when the PHE ends.
  • Colorado – Governor Polis signed legislation to extend an income tax credit to more healthcare workers to provide relief and expand the workforce during a critical time. The governor also signed legislation to support rural communities, including a bill incentivizing colleges and universities with healthcare programs to set aside slots in these programs for students to work in rural areas of Colorado and a rural provider stimulus grant program. 
  • Delaware – The Delaware Division of Public Health announced the launch of Delaware Women Infant and Children’s (WIC) new educational website. The website includes information on nutrition, breastfeeding, and WIC’s programming for families, covering all stages of pregnancy, postpartum, infancy and children up to five years of age as well as a link to information and contact numbers related to the baby formula shortage. 
  • Illinois
    • Governor JB Pritzker signed into law House Bill 4343 which removes the requirement that individuals enrolled in Medicaid report changes in income during the 12 months following their most recent redetermination, allowing for continuity of coverage for those whose work hours and income aren’t consistent each month. Individuals with zero income will also be automatically re-enrolled. The new law also expands Medicaid coverage to include midwife services and creates the Wellness Checks in Schools Program, which will work with school districts to identify students in grades 7 through 12 who are at risk for mental health conditions and create a referral process for appropriate intervention.
    • The governor also signed into law several pieces of legislation to address the opioid crisis. Under Senate Bill 2535, pharmacists and those who prescribe opioids are required to inform patients of the addictive nature of the drugs and that the patient has the option to receive an opioid antagonist. House Bill 4408 prohibits insurers and Medicaid from charging a copay for Naloxone. Lastly, Senate Bill 2565 allows circuit courts to implement drug-court treatment programs. The courts will also include additional harm-reduction services and allow a state’s attorney to file motions to vacate and expunge convictions and records for people who successfully complete these programs.
  • Louisiana – On Wednesday, May 25, the Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services sent a text alert on behalf of the Louisiana Department of Health; the text was an “LADCFS Alert” asking Medicaid members to update their contact information by calling the number on their health plan card or visiting this link. LDH is conducting outreach to members in several ways to make sure their contact information is up to date. 
  • Montana – Together with Department of Public Health and Human Services Director Adam Meier and Big Sky Care Connect Chief Executive Officer Ben Tyrrell, Governor Greg Gianforte announced a $20 million investment in the state’s health information exchange. Most of the funding will be allocated to continued design, development, and implementation of the current system, including work to build out the current technology, while also adding new participants and implementing new services. 
  • North Carolina – The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced the award of $20 million in funding to five Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) to expand access to evidence-based, integrated behavioral and physical healthcare in their communities. This marks the first time NCDHHS is funding this program. CCBHCs provide comprehensive, integrated services that support individuals with Serious Mental Illness (SMI), Severe Emotional Disturbance (SED) and co-occurring SMI or SED and substance use disorder.
  • West Virginia – A consulting contract has been awarded to McChrystal Group LLC to conduct a top-to-bottom organizational assessment of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR). Additionally, the review process will include the development of a strategic plan for the organization and financial structure of DHHR.
  • Wisconsin – The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) has updated the COVID-19 Illness After Vaccination webpage to include additional data on people who are up to date with COVID-19 vaccines. In addition to including data by vaccination and booster dose status, DHS released a new data visualization showing the rate of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths by vaccination status over time.