March 8 Update

In This Week’s Update:

  • Medicaid Enrollment Update
  • State Marketplace Insurance Subsidy Considerations
  • COVID-19 State Updates: CA, CO, CT, KS, LA, MA, MD, MN, NC, NJ, NY, WI
  • Other State Updates: NC, NJ, PA
  • Addressing COVID-19 Vaccine Concerns
  • Building Effective Partnerships with Communities
  • A Year of COVID-19 in Rural America


Medicaid Enrollment Update

Last week State Health and Value Strategies (SHVS) published an update of its Medicaid enrollment tracker that provides a comprehensive, detailed look at enrollment trends from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic through January 2021. The Tracking Medicaid Enrollment Growth During COVID-19 Databook provides enrollment details by state, while the companion Overviewsummarizes trends in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program enrollment through January 2021.


State Marketplace Insurance Subsidy Considerations

Also last week, SHVS published an expert perspective that reviews key considerations for states exploring Marketplace insurance subsidies and highlights the experiences in the five states that have established state-based subsidies that supplement the Affordable Care Act’s premium tax credit and cost-sharing reductions.


COVID-19 State Updates: CA, CO, CT, KS, LA, MA, MD, MN, NC, NJ, NY, WI

  • California – The Newsom Administration announced the state has set aside 40 percent of vaccine doses for the hardest-hit communities and established a vaccine equity metric—which seeks to increase vaccinations in those communities—as a prelude to adjusting the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which governs the conditions under which California’s economy can safely operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. The initial goal of the vaccine equity metric is to deliver a minimum of 2 million doses to the hardest-hit quarter of the state as measured by the Healthy Places Index.
  • Colorado – As part of Gov. Jared Polis’ Vaccines for All plan, Colorado is allocating vaccines to community-based organizations across the state to host a total of 26 vaccination clinics between Friday, March 5 and Thursday, March 11. These clinics will focus on vaccinating underserved Coloradans and span a variety of diverse communities. 
  • Connecticut – Access Health CT, the Connecticut state-based marketplace, announced it will host two educational sessions called “Healthy Chats” on March 9 and March 10 (Spanish only) to help Connecticut residents learn about plan options, financial help, low-cost and free coverage, and tips to stay covered during the Special Enrollment Period that runs until March 15, 2021.
  • Kansas – Gov. Laura Kelly announced that the Community Care Network of Kansas has been allocated Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) to help its federally funded Community Health Centers increase access to care through telehealth. Eighteen of the Community Care Network’s health centers benefitted from $3 million in state-allocated CRF dollars, purchasing over 44,000 devices to be distributed to patients and enhance the value of telehealth. These devices, including blood pressure monitors, glucometers, pulse oximeters, thermometers, and scales, are in the process of being distributed.
  • Louisiana – The Department of Health is reminding residents that if they qualify for Medicaid’s transportation services, they can use this service to get a ride to an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.  
  • Maryland
    • Gov. Larry Hogan and Brig. Gen. Janeen Birckhead announced the release of the Maryland Vaccine Equity Task Force Operations Plan to ensure fair and equitable access to vaccines for hard-to-reach and underserved communities. The plan provides a detailed framework for the creation of community vaccination sites. The framework begins with the community proposal submission process and encompasses assessment, resource allocation, and operational support. The process is guided by a flexible and data-driven methodology, and is grounded in cultural awareness, community and private partnerships, and a robust communications plan.
    • Maryland officials expanded text-based outreach to book vaccine appointments for eligible Prince George’s County residents at the Six Flags America mass vaccination site. To help ensure vaccine equity, the state has committed to set aside at least 500 Six Flags appointments for county residents, in addition to what county residents are able to book online and through the state’s call center.
  • Massachusetts – The Baker-Polito Administration announced a new $4.7 million initiative to promote COVID-19 vaccine equity in the 20 communities most disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The initiative will support and coordinate with local leaders and community- and faith-based organizations to strengthen existing efforts in these cities and towns. The administration also announced 11 high-efficiency regional vaccination collaboratives involving local health officials and other regional partners.
  • Minnesota – Gov. Tim Walz signed into law legislation that authorizes qualified dentists to administer COVID-19 vaccinations, increasing the number of eligible COVID-19 vaccinators throughout Minnesota.
  • New Jersey – The New Jersey Department of Health announced the launch of a new long-term care webpage, providing a user-friendly portal to identify the reopening status of facilities in the state, information on current outbreaks, frequently asked questions, and resources for residents, families, and staff. 
  • New York – Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced three new short-term mass vaccination sites that will use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in an expansion of New York’s rollout of the new vaccine. He also announced 12 community-based pop-up vaccination sites are coming this week at public housing developments, churches, community centers, schools, and fire stations. These sites are expected to vaccinate more than 4,000 people throughout the week. 
  • North Carolina – The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) is expanding access to COVID-19 rapid testing in K-12 public schools to protect students, teachers, and staff from COVID-19. Tests will be available at no cost to all local education agencies and charter schools to test students and staff who have COVID-19 symptoms and to screen staff. 
  • Wisconsin – The Wisconsin Department of Health Services announced that Wisconsinites can now call a toll-free hotline to receive personal assistance with their vaccine-related questions.The new call center is equipped to help people find vaccine locations, answer medical questions related to the COVID-19 vaccine, and assist with registration, including but not limited to providers using the Wisconsin COVID-19 vaccine registry.

Other State Updates: NC, NJ, PA

  • New Jersey
    • Gov. Phil Murphy announced members to the New Jersey Health Care Affordability Advisory Group. The committee is comprised of members across hospitals, providers, employers, consumer advocates, and policy leaders. The Advisory Group’s objective is to advise the Health Care Affordability Interagency Workgroup on the development and implementation of health care cost growth benchmarks.
    • Gov. Murphy released the 2020 year-end statistics on overdose deaths for New Jersey and acknowledged that the data shows the loss of 3,046 New Jerseyans to suspected overdose deaths, closely comparable to 3,021 suspected overdose deaths in 2019. Additionally, Governor Murphy approached the legislature to move a bill package on overdose prevention and recovery resilience and pledged his commitment to working alongside legislative leaders and key advocates.
  • North Carolina – NCDHHS began mailing enrollment packets statewide and launched new resources for enrollees as it prepares for NC Medicaid Managed Care Open Enrollment, which begins on March 15. Enrollees can now call the NC Medicaid Enrollment Call Center to learn more about NC Medicaid Managed Care and can download a free enrollment mobile app.
  • Pennsylvania
    • Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam announced the launch of a new initiative from the Department of Health called PA Project Firstline. Developed in partnership with the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PA Project Firstline is an innovative project designed to promote foundational knowledge on infection prevention and control for all types of front-line health care workers.
    • The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services released the latest issue of the Positive Approaches Journal, which aims to provide the most recent research and resources for people with mental health and behavioral challenges, intellectual disabilities, autism, and other developmental disabilities. This edition focuses on the importance of social connectedness and outlines ways of supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and autism in forming healthy and long-lasting relationships.


New Campaign Seeks to Address Black Communities’ Concerns About COVID-19 Vaccines

Black people are much more likely than others in the U.S. to contract, be hospitalized for, and die from COVID-19. Yet they have one of the lowest vaccination rates among racial or ethnic groups—a product, in part, of mistrust rooted in a long history of structural racism and medical mistreatment. A new campaign, THE CONVERSATION: Between Us, About Us, is aiming to bridge the information gap between Black communities and trusted health experts. In a series of videos, Black doctors, nurses, and researchers from across the U.S. openly discuss Black Americans’ questions and concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines. The campaign, developed by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and the Black Coalition Against COVID as part of an effort to help save Black lives during this pandemic, is supported by the Commonwealth Fund, the California Health Care Foundation, and the Sierra Health Foundation.


Building Effective Partnerships Between Health Care Organizations and Communities

As health care entities prioritize strategies to address health disparities and advance health equity, it is particularly important to acknowledge the critical perspectives that patients and their families can bring to inform program and policy design. It can, however, be challenging to obtain and incorporate community voices in a sustainable and authentic manner. A new brief published by the Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS) shares considerations for health care organizations and government entities seeking to build effective partnerships with the individuals and communities they serve to better address their health and social needs. It draws from the experiences of two sites—Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis and the Los Angeles Department of Health Services Whole Person Care Program—that participated in the Community Partnership Pilot, a CHCS initiative made possible by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


365 Days of COVID-19 In Rural America
The Housing Assistance Council (HAC), a national nonprofit that helps build homes and communities across rural America, has published a report on the prevalence of COVID-19 in rural areas between Feb. 20, 2020 and Feb. 20, 2021. The first case of COVID-19 outside of metropolitan areas in the United States was reported on Feb. 20, 2020. One year later, there are more than 4 million reported cases of COVID-19 and 78,500 associated deaths in communities outside of metropolitan areas. As the report documents, while the health pandemic was slower to arrive in rural America, no community was spared. The report includes maps and charts looking at changes over time, comparing nonmetro to metro cases, and examining rural per capita COVID-19 rates. The HAC has also complied data on the effect of COVID-19 on rural economies, employment, and housing.