Budget Blog

June 4, 2020 - Health Care Issues Update

By Stacey Mazer posted 06-04-2020 12:00 AM


Congressional Leaders Urge HHS to Disburse COVID-19 Relief Funds to Medicaid Providers

On June 3, Congressional leadership with jurisdiction over the Medicaid program sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar  expressing concern over prolonged delays in disbursing funds from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund for Medicaid-dependent providers. HHS has, thus far, relied on methodologies that favor providers receiving a larger share of their payments from Medicare or private insurance. Providers that depend on Medicaid for a large source of their payments have not yet received a meaningful allocation from the fund. The letter states that these providers operate on thin profit margins and the COVID-19 pandemic has strained their already scarce resources, threatening their ability to keep their doors open in the midst of a declared public health emergency. The letter requests answers from HHS by June 10 to a series of questions including the timeline to release a dedicated tranche of funds for Medicaid-dependent providers and the level of funding to these providers to ensure a meaningful and equitable distribution.


CMS Issues Guidance to States to Implement Optional COVID-19 Testing

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released guidance to states supporting implementation of the Optional COVID-19 Testing Group­­­ established by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act for uninsured individuals for COVID-19 testing and testing-related services.  The Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) for services furnished to beneficiaries eligible under the COVID-19 testing group is 100 percent. The guidance identifies the different requirements associated with implementing the new group including eligibility and enrollment, claiming, and data reporting and provides guidance on strategies that states may employ to meet these requirements. It also describes flexibilities available to help states streamline implementation of the new group.


CMS Announces Increased Enforcement of Nursing Homes

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) announced enhanced enforcement for nursing homes with violations of longstanding infection control practices. CMS is increasing enforcement for facilities with persistent infection control violations and increasing penalties for noncompliance with longstanding infection control requirements. The CARES Act provided additional funding to CMS for survey and certification work, of which $80 million in new resources will be available for states to increase surveys. CMS will allocate the funds based on performance-based metrics. States that have not completed 100 percent of focused infection control surveys of their nursing homes by July 31, 2020 will be required to submit a corrective action plan to their CMS location outlining the strategy for completion of these surveys within 30 days; failure to do so may result in reductions to their fiscal year 2021 allocation. A copy of the letter sent to governors regarding data reporting and completed surveys can be found here and the state survey memo can be found here.


Early Evidence Suggests Increased Medicaid Enrollment Due to COVID-19

A June 1 article by the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) looks at early evidence of enrollment increases due to COVID-19. While enrollment data from the initial period of the COVID-19 health crisis is not expected to be released by federal officials for several months, local news organizations are reporting preliminary state data that shows some states have already started to experience significant increases in Medicaid enrollment. Additionally, the National Association of Medicaid Directors released a blog about the anticipated Medicaid enrollment surge.

HHS Announces $250 Million for Health Care Providers

The Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) announced the provision of an additional $250 million to aid health care systems treating patients and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds will support hospitals and other health care entities to train workforces, expand telemedicine and the use of virtual healthcare, procure supplies and equipment, and coordinate effectively across regional, state and jurisdictional, and local health care facilities to respond to COVID-19.


CMS Releases February 2020 Medicaid and CHIP Data

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the February 2020 monthly report on state Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) eligibility and enrollment data. These data reflect a range of indicators related to key application, eligibility, and enrollment processes within the state Medicaid and CHIP agency. In February 2020, 70.6 million individuals were enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP. Of that total, 63.8 million were enrolled in Medicaid and 6.8 million were enrolled in CHIP.