March 23 Update

In This Week’s Update:

  • SHVS Webinar on COVID-19
  • ACA 10th Anniversary
  • COVID-19 State Updates: DC, FL, MD, ME, MI, MN, NH, NJ, NM, NV, PA, RI, WA
  • Other State Updates: ME, OK
  • Protecting the Vulnerable During a Pandemic
  • COVID-19 Crisis Communications Guide


SHVS Webinar on COVID-19

Last week State Health and Value Strategies hosted a webinar for state health officials on strategies for Medicaid and commercial health insurance oversight in responding to COVID-19. SHVS has posted the slide deck as well as a recording of the webinar on its website. SHVS is developing additional programming for states seeking to make coverage and essential services readily available to their residents, including those most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which includes a temporary increase to the FMAP percentage in addition to other public health provisions. Manatt Health published a summary of key health care provisions included in the act.


ACA 10th Anniversary

The Affordable Care Act turns 10 today, and the Kaiser Health News podcast What the Health? is marking the milestone with a special episode.


COVID-19 State Updates

  • Bulletins and Notices to Providers and Insurers
    • District of Columbia – The Department Insurance, Securities, and Banking released guidance to carriers on screening, testing, treatment, coverage, benefits, and reimbursement in response to the mayor’s public health emergency declaration.
    • Maine – The state Medicaid program published a webpage highlighting guidance and resources for providers and community members delivering services to Medicaid members.
    • Rhode Island – The Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner and the Rhode Island Medicaid Program released instructions notifying health insurers issuing policies in Rhode Island to take timely measures related to the potential impact of COVID-19 and ensure access and continuity of care in light of the public health crisis.
    • Washington – The Washington Health Care Authority published an FAQ for providers on clinical policy and billing for COVID-19. The FAQ also includes guidance on billing for telemedicine services.
  • Expanding Workforce Capacity
    • New Jersey – Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation to expand access to telehealth services and to allow professional and occupational licensing boards to expedite licensure of out-of-state professionals. The Attorney General also waived rules for out-of-state health care providers who hold current health care licenses and certifications in good standing in other jurisdictions and have been practicing within the last five years to secure New Jersey licenses by completing a simple form.
    • New Mexico – The state Medicaid program and Superintendent of Insurance issued new requirements to managed care organizations and insurance companies, respectively, to promote telemedicine during the COVID-19 emergency.
    • Rhode Island – Governor Gina Raimondo and Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott made several announcements about the state’s response to COVID-19. Governor Raimondo signed an executive order directing health insurers to cover telemedicine services in primary, specialty, mental, and behavioral health care. Additionally, Dr. Alexander-Scott announced the state is issuing temporary licenses for 90 days to select health care providers who hold valid licenses in good standing in another state.
  • Section 1135 Waivers
    • Florida and Washington – CMS approved Florida and Washington’s requests for Section 1135 waivers. These approvals grant both states flexibility to address the needs of Medicaid beneficiaries in their state during the COVID-19 pandemic.   
  • Special Enrollment Periods (SEP)
    • MarylandMinnesotaNevada, and New York – The state-based exchanges in these states announced SEPs so uninsured residents in their respective states can apply for and enroll in health insurance coverage.
    • New HampshireNew JerseyNew Mexico, and Pennsylvania – The governors of these states each sent letters to HHS and CMS requesting an SEP to allow for uninsured and underinsured residents to enroll in health coverage through
  • Other
    • Michigan – Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order to expand the capacity for child care services for health care workers, first responders, and other members of the essential workforce providing critical infrastructure to Michiganders during the COVID-19 crisis. The order provides temporary and limited relief from certain regulatory restrictions regarding child care services and facilitates the use of certain property for child care services.
    • New Jersey – New Jersey Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson outlined steps the Department is taking to assist and protect individuals to contain COVID-19. Actions taken by the Department include supporting children and families via child care, food assistance, and Medicaid; supporting older residents and individuals with disabilities; and providing access to mental health and substance use disorder services.


Other State Updates

  • Maine – Governor Janet Mills signed into law legislation to improve private health insurance for people and small businesses in the state. The law authorizes the merging of the small group and individual markets, makes changes to the state reinsurance program, and supports the transition to a state-based marketplace.  
  • Oklahoma – The Oklahoma Health Care Authority is accepting public comments on its Healthy Adult Opportunity Demonstration Waiver Application (SoonerCare 2.0). Comments will be accepted until April 15.   


COVID-19 Pandemic and Health Justice: How to Protect Vulnerable Communities

Health Affairs blog post highlights the actions state and local governments can take to support the ability of low-income and marginalized communities to safely shelter in place. While state policymakers are working to identify best practices for controlling the spread of COVID-19, there is a need to minimize the negative effects of sweeping public health interventions, especially for poor and marginalized communities, which may be hardest hit. Many low-income individuals and families face significant challenges that prevent them from protecting themselves and others from COVID-19: they lack the disposable income, flexible work schedules, and ability to do paid work from home. Nor do they have paid leave required to take care of children whose schools are closed. Being forced to choose between paying for food, health care, utilities and keeping up with rent will almost always result in eviction, and eviction always results in a downward move to worse conditions, including homelessness and corollary poor health outcomes. The blog post provides a framework for state policymakers to adopt when implementing policy responses to COVID-19 to prioritize the vulnerable.


Crisis Communication Guide for COVID-19

ASTHO published a crisis communications guide that provides concise, easily digestible answers to 45 pressing COVID-19 questions. Clear messaging from health agencies is essential to keep the public informed during the COVID-19 outbreak. The ASTHO guide is based on message maps and follows the belief that state health officials need both short and long answers. Messages are presented initially in no more than three to five short sentences and convey three to five key messages, ideally in the least number of words possible. The approach is based on surveys showing that lead or front-page media and broadcast stories usually convey only the soundbite: three to five messages, usually in less than nine seconds for broadcast media or 27 words for print. In the guide, you will find more than 45 top questions about COVID-19 answered with detailed message maps.