September 14 Update

In This Week’s Update:

  • Essential Health Benefit Benchmark Plans
  • COVID-19 State Updates: AK, CA, DC, KY, MD, MN, NC, OH, OR & WA
  • Other State Updates: MN, NJ & TX
  • 2019 Health Insurance Coverage Estimates
  • Scorecard on State Health System Performance


Essential Health Benefit Benchmark Plans

Last week State Health and Value Strategies published a new expert perspective that examines the essential health benefit (EHB) benchmark plans recently approved by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. The expert perspective highlights the efforts of five states to revise their EHB benchmark plans in recent years to enhance coverage and provides an overview of how other states can consider changing their EHB benchmark plans to boost coverage. 


COVID-19 State Updates: AK, CA, DC, KY, MD, MN, NC, OH, OR & WA

  • Alaska – The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced it will distribute $750,000 of CARES Act funding to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on mental health and address associated risk factors for suicide. The funds will provide direct support to Alaska’s communities and behavioral health providers as they respond to increased mental health needs that have arisen due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • California – Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law legislation that immediately extends paid sick day protections to California’s workforce and allows every California employee that has been exposed to, or tests positive for, COVID-19 to have access to paid sick days for the rest of the 2020 calendar year.
  • District of Columbia – The DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority Executive Board, the state-based exchange, unanimously voted to extend the special enrollment period for COVID-19 for District residents who need health insurance and for employees and dependents of employers already covered on DC Health Link to January 31, 2021, or longer if the District’s public health emergency is extended later than that date.
  • Kentucky – Governor Andy Beshear announced the launch of the Healthy at Home Eviction Relief Fund website,, where Kentuckians now can visit and apply for assistance. The fund is intended to prevent evictions to stem the spread of COVID-19, allow landlords to get substantial payments for back rent, and reduce the volume of eviction cases in Kentucky courts.
  • Maryland – Governor Larry Hogan announced the acquisition of 250,000 rapid point-of-care antigen tests through the bipartisan interstate testing compact. The tests will be deployed to nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and correctional and juvenile detention centers across the state.
  • Minnesota – Governor Tim Walz announced that teachers, school staff, and child care providers across the state have received access to a free COVID-19 saliva test, totaling more than 250,000 tests.
  • North Carolina – The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is developing a COVID-19 Exposure Notification app called ‘SlowCOVIDNC’ that will launch across the state this month. The app will help North Carolinians slow the spread of the virus by alerting them when they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Ohio – The Ohio Department of Medicaid announced that it has filed permanent rules to continue expanded telehealth options throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. The proposed rules expand eligible telehealth services and eligible providers while relaxing barriers for patients accessing telehealth.  
  • Oregon – The Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace is reminding uninsured Oregonians who were not able to sign up for private health coverage due to COVID-19 that they can still enroll through’s existing national emergency or major disaster exceptional circumstances special enrollment period.
  • Washington – The Washington Health Benefit Exchange is reminding individuals who lost their health coverage as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and were given more time to enroll that they have until September 30, 2020 to secure coverage.


Other State Updates: MN, NJ & TX

  • Minnesota – MNsure, Minnesota’s state-based exchange, is reminding Minnesotans that all plans sold through cover preventive care services and chronic disease management at no cost and is encouraging enrollees to get vaccinated and obtain routine health screenings to prevent major health issues.
  • New Jersey – Governor Phil Murphy and Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson announced the state will offer the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone for free to residents at participating pharmacies throughout New Jersey from Sept. 24 to Sept. 26. During those days, New Jerseyans can visit participating pharmacies and anonymously obtain naloxone for free with no prescription and no appointment. Each naloxone pack contains two doses.
  • Texas – The Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced it is awarding $45 million in grant funds through the Community Mental Health Grant Program that supports mental health services and projects in Texas. The grant funds will go to 53 entities to support community programs for people with mental illness by expanding outpatient treatment, promoting recovery, and improving quality of life. Funds also support crisis respite, crisis stabilization, and extended observation services.


2019 Coverage Data from the ACS & CPS: An Annual Conversation with the U.S. Census Bureau

The State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC) will host a webinar on Wednesday, Sept. 23 that will provide an overview of 2019 health insurance coverage estimates from two key, large-scale federal data sources: The American Community Survey (ACS) and the Current Population Survey (CPS). The webinar will examine the new estimates at both the national and state levels, as well as by coverage type, with technical insight from experts at the U.S. Census Bureau, which administers both the ACS and CPS, and from SHADAC researchers. Registration details here.


Scorecard on State Health System Performance

The Commonwealth Fund released their annual state-by-state report for 2020 that measures access to care, quality of care, health outcomes, and health disparities across the United States. The Scorecard assesses all 50 states and the District of Columbia on 49 measures. Included in the 2020 Scorecard are two new performance measures: state-based public health spending and primary care spending among Medicaid enrollees and those with employer coverage. Also included are data on racial and ethnic inequity, focusing on the disparity between white people and communities of color for a subset of indicators spanning health care access, quality, and health outcomes. And for the first time, the 2020 Scorecard also reports price information for health services at a state level.