October 5 Update

In This Week’s Update:

  • Equitable Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccine
  • SHVS Brief on Medicaid Data
  • COVID-19 State Updates: CA, NC, VA & WI
  • Other State Updates: CA, CO, DC, MN, NE & PA
  • SHVS Webinar: Quality and Equity Measures
  • Utility Services and Health Equity
  • Public Sector Leadership Resources


Equitable Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccine

Last week, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) published a report, Framework for Equitable Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccine, commissioned by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The 236-page report and related materials include a five-page “highlights” document, a figure outlining the recommended phased approach, and an overview of the report’s recommendations for federal, state, and local governments. States will likely want to consult the NASEM analysis and recommendations as they develop their vaccine distribution plans, which are due to the CDC by Friday, October 16.


SHVS Brief on Medicaid Data

Last week, SHVS published a new expert perspective, Exploring Strategies to Fill Gaps in Medicaid Race, Ethnicity, and Language Data. This expert perspective provides an overview of current race, ethnicity, and language (REL) data collection standards; puts forth ideas for increasing completeness in data by engaging the enrollee and enrollment assisters and modifying enrollment and renewal interface; and provides suggestions for how states can leverage alternative sources of data in order to improve REL data completeness.


COVID-19 State Updates: CA, NC, VA & WI

  • California
    • The California Department of Public Health released details regarding a health equity metric to help guide counties in their continuing efforts to more effectively fight COVID-19. The equity metric, which is part of the Blueprint for a Safer Economy announced August 28, is designed to reduce COVID-19 cases in all communities and takes effect October 6.
    • Governor Gavin Newsom signed several COVID-19-related bills into law this week, including the following:
      • AB 685, which requires employers to promptly notify employees and the local public health authorities of workplace outbreaks;
      • AB 1710, which will allow licensed pharmacists to administer FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines;
      • AB 1867, which requires certain employers, including front-line health care workers and food processing facilities, to provide two weeks of paid sick leave; and
      • SB 1159, which makes it easier for firefighters, health care workers, and other front-line workers infected with the coronavirus to get workers’ compensation.
  • North Carolina – The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced a milestone in the use of telehealth and telephonic visits by NC Medicaid enrollees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since establishing telehealth flexibility policies in early March, NC Medicaid has processed claims for more than 1.1 million telehealth visits and 350,000 telephonic visits.
  • Virginia – Governor Ralph Northam announced that the Virginia Open Data Portal now includes more than a dozen new COVID-19 datasets from the Virginia Department of Health. The launch of the new Virginia Open Data Portal was accelerated amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to provide greater access to data for public health officials.
  • Wisconsin – The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) launched new data designed to give Wisconsinites a better picture of the impact of COVID-19 in the state, what the trends in cases mean, and how to most effectively respond to this virus. In tandem with this data update, DHS also released guidance on mitigation strategies for communities.


Other State Updates: CA, CO, DC, MN, NE & PA

  • California
    • Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 855 into law, which alters California’s regulation of mental health and substance use disorder (MH/SUD) treatment and applies to all California health plans and disability insurance policies issued, amended, or renewed on or after January 1, 2021. Among other changes, SB 855 expands the scope of coverage mandates in the California Mental Health Parity Act and mandates a new, uniform definition of “medically necessary treatment of a mental health or substance use disorder.”
    • Governor Newsom announced he signed legislation to bring down the cost of prescription drugs. Under the bill, the California Health and Human Services Agency will develop manufacturing partnerships to produce or distribute generic prescription drugs.
    • bill signed by Governor Newsom makes California the second state to allow nurse practitioners to practice independently of a doctor.
  • Colorado
    • The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing announced the release of a new mobile app for Health First Colorado and Child Health Plan Plus members. The app can be used by members to see if their coverage is active, find providers, and call the Nurse Advice Line, among other functionalities.
    • The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, in collaboration with stakeholders, has developed new processes for eligibility determinations, needs assessments, and support planning for all individuals seeking or receiving long-term services and supports. As part of the assessment the department is implementing a Person-Centered Budget Algorithm that will help identify the right amount of support for members based on assessed need, and together with strengths and preferences identified during the assessment contribute to a person-centered support plan.
  • District of Columbia – The District of Columbia Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking announced the 2021 approved individual and small business health insurance rates. Rates will increase overall by 0.2 percent for individual coverage and decrease by 0.5 percent for small group coverage.
  • Minnesota – The Minnesota Department of Commerce announced final 2021 Minnesota health insurance rates. For the 2021 plan year, 80 counties have three or more health insurance companies offering plans on the exchange, compared to 31 counties with three or more in 2020. Ninety-seven percent of Minnesotans buying health insurance through MNsure will have an average of 30 different qualified health plans and three or more carriers to choose from.
  • Nebraska – The Department of Health and Human Services announced that health care benefits for Medicaid Expansion/Heritage Health Adult will begin October 1, 2020, for Nebraskans who have been determined eligible for Medicaid expansion. 
  • Pennsylvania – Governor Tom Wolf announced the launch of Life Unites Us, an evidence-based approach to stigma reduction of substance use disorders (SUD), specifically opioid use disorder (OUD). The statewide campaign is funded by $1.9 million in federal grant funding and is part of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Program’s 2019-2022 Strategic Plan goal of reducing the stigma of substance use disorder.


SHVS Webinar on Buying Value: Measures that Matter for Quality and Equity

Last week SHVS hosted a webinar to discuss the Buying Value suite of resources to support state use of performance measures as they assess and improve value with managed care plans and accountable provider entities. Buying Value consists of two free Excel-based tools: the Buying Value Measure Selection Tool and the Buying Value Benchmark Repository. During the webinar, DaShawn Groves, Project Manager at the Washington, D.C. Department of Health Care Finance, also shared the District’s experience using the Buying Value suite in the development and monitoring of population health management initiatives in the Medicaid program. The slides and a recording of the webinar are posted on the website.


Energy, Water, and Broadband: Three Services Crucial To Health Equity

A new blog post by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation discusses the important influence utility services have on our health, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Access to running water, electricity, and broadband is essential to ensure everyone has the basics to be as healthy as possible. But the COVID-19 pandemic has also revealed fault lines in America’s aging infrastructure. These inequities especially affect people of color, rural and tribal communities, and low-income households, for whom energy, water, and broadband are often unavailable, unaffordable, unreliable—and even unsafe. These inequities stem from a long, painful legacy of discriminatory policies and structural racism. This blog post highlights how communities around the country are leading the way by building health and equity into three essential utility services.


Public Sector Leadership Consortium

Recognizing the need to better support public sector leaders, three organizations—the Center for Health Care Strategies, the Milbank Memorial Fund, and the National Association of Medicaid Directors—launched the Public Sector Leadership Consortium in late 2019. The Consortium is developing practical leadership tools and informational resources to help public leaders advance effective health policy and improve health outcomes. Resources developed by the Consortium include:

  • Framework for Public Sector Leadership — This framework, which outlines five domains considered critical for public sector leadership, serves as a guide for rising public sector leaders. It provides a uniform language and approach to strengthening public sector leadership. The framework is based on the assumption that leadership does not necessarily refer to an individual’s position on an organizational chart or hierarchy—that any team member can rise to the occasion as a leader.
  • Leadership Forward Series — This series of blog posts and podcast episodes explores the application of the Framework for Public Sector Leadership. The resources feature conversations with leaders with a wide range of experiences in public sector leadership and include practical examples of successes and challenges.