June 8 Update

In This Week’s Update:

  • SHVS Resources on Health Equity
  • COVID-19 State Updates: ME, NC, NJ, NM, NY, OR & WA
  • Other State Updates: CO, DE, HI, KY, ME & WA
  • Structural Racism and Root Causes of Health Inequities
  • Leveraging Federal and State Authorities to Ensure Access to LTSS
  • Resources for Medicaid Directors


SHVS Resources on Health Equity

Systemic injustices are converging and communities of color are under siege. Racism is a public health issue—we are seeing it clearly in the disproportionate impact that the pandemic is having on black Americans, and also in the epidemic of police violence and the righteous anger in response. There is much to do to address these systemic injustices, and we all have much to learn from affected communities about their wants, needs, and how we can support their health.

To that end, last week State Health and Value Strategies (SHVS) launched a new section on its COVID-19 resource page for states focused specifically on health equity. This section features analysis, reports, and state examples on how states are working to advance health equity in response to and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Heather Howard and Marissa Korn of SHVS wrote an expert perspective on Equitable Recovery Strategies that provides a survey of actions that state and local governments have taken to intentionally incorporate equity into their recovery and reopening policies.


COVID-19 State Updates: ME, NC, NJ, NM, NY, OR & WA

  • New Jersey – Governor Murphy and Lieutenant Governor Oliver announced the COVID-19 Short-Term Rental Assistance Program. The program will provide rental assistance to low- and moderate-income households that have had a substantial reduction in income as a result of the pandemic. Qualifying households will be expected to pay 30 percent of their income toward rent, and the program would pay the remainder up to a fair market rent payment standard.
  • New Mexico – The New Mexico Office of Superintendent of Insurance partnered with the New Mexico Human Services Department, beWellnm, and the New Mexico Medical Insurance Pool to develop a new online screening tool to help New Mexicans determine what health insurance coverage they may qualify for during the COVID-19 emergency.
  • New York – Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the state is expanding COVID-19 testing criteria to include any individual who attended any of the recent protests across the state. The Governor encouraged any individual who attended a protest to get a test. 
  • Oregon – The Director of the Department of Consumer and Business Services for the state of Oregon extended a Health Insurance Order directing all health insurers transacting insurance in Oregon to extend deadlines for reporting claims, institute grace periods for premium payment, and suspend cancellations and non-renewals through July 3, 2020 in light of the ongoing COVID-19 health emergency.
  • Washington – Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler extended his emergency order to state health insurers for an additional 30 days, requiring them to waive copays and deductibles for any consumer requiring testing for COVID-19. The extension is effective immediately and applies to all state-regulated health insurance plans and short-term limited duration medical plans until July 3, 2020. 
  • Maine – The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has collected data to analyze changes in services such as MaineCare, Food Supplement, child welfare programs, telehealth services, and behavioral health crisis lines as a result of COVID-19. DHHS published a data dashboard of the measures they are monitoring to assess and improve services during the pandemic.
  • North Carolina – Governor Roy Cooper signed Executive Order 143 to address the social, environmental, economic, and health disparities in communities of color that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Order directs state agencies and offices to provide targeted measures to help communities of color that have been affected by the pandemic. 


Other State Updates: CO, DE, HI, KY, ME & WA

  • Colorado – To help celebrate Pride Month 2020, the Colorado Division of Insurance, part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies, announced a new resource for Coloradans, LGBTQ Health Care Rights and Resources website. The site explains the rights and protections for LGBTQ Coloradans regarding health care services and health insurance.
  • Delaware – The Delaware Health Care Commission released preliminary data on health care spending in the state in calendar year 2018. The report follows the establishment in late 2018 of a state health care spending benchmark, a per-annum rate-of-growth benchmark for health care spending. 
  • Hawaii – The Department of Human Services announced that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Med-QUEST is rescinding the contract awards made to managed care organizations in January, canceling the RFP released August 2019, and will be issuing a new RFP this fall to address the evolving needs of the community amid this public health crisis.
  • Kentucky – Kentucky awarded Medicaid managed care contracts to Aetna, Humana, Molina, UnitedHealthcare, and WellCare/Centene, effective January 1, 2021. Contracts will run through December 31, 2024, with six additional two-year options.
  • Maine – The Offices of MaineCare Services and Aging and Disability Services announced that CMS has granted initial approval of Maine’s Statewide Transition Plan to bring settings into compliance with the federal home and community-based services regulations.
  • Washington – Pam MacEwan, chief executive officer of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, issued a statement regarding the proposed 2021 health insurance rates for Washington state. In her statement, MacEwan noted that “the Exchange will feature Cascade Care health plans this fall, including the nation’s first public option health insurance plans. The number of Cascade Care applicants demonstrates that Washington continues to be a stable and attractive market for health insurance carriers.”


COVID-19 Racial Health Disparities Highlight Why We Need to Address Structural Racism

An analysis by the Urban Institute briefly reviews the underlying causes contributing to racial inequities in health. COVID-19 data has revealed that black families face a much higher risk of contracting and dying from the virus. Residents of majority-black counties have three times the rate of infection and almost six times the rate of deaths as residents of majority-white counties. While public officials have focused on the underlying health issues that disproportionately affect African Americans, such as diabetes and hypertension, as contributors to the larger impact of COVID-19 on the black community; it is important to go further and examine the root cause of these racial disparities in underlying health conditions.


COVID-19 State Resource Guide: Leveraging Federal and State Authorities to Ensure Access to LTSS

In a new resource guide prepared on behalf of The SCAN Foundation, Manatt Health identifies federal and state Medicaid flexibilities available to state officials and other stakeholders and how those flexibilities are being deployed during COVID-19 to help ensure access to long-term services and supports (LTSS). The resource guide also highlights state policy goals in implementing regulatory flexibilities available during the COVID-19 public health emergency, as well as specific examples of how states are ensuring continued access to LTSS by expanding the types of settings in which services can be delivered, bolstering pay and other supports for LTSS providers, and addressing barriers to care created by the COVID-19 pandemic.


Resources for Medicaid Directors

The National Association of Medicaid Directors announced a new COVID-19 resource page that shares insights from the nation’s Medicaid directors about the COVID-19 public health emergency and the economic downturn COVID-19 is leaving in its wake. The most recent blog entry shares preliminary insights from the Medicaid directors about how COVID-19 has impacted members’ use of health care services. It also explores the key questions Medicaid directors are still seeking to answer around utilization, including the impact that delays in care have had on the health of members, changes in provider capacity as the health care system adapts to new delivery models, and the impact of increased telehealth on access and efficiencies in care delivery.