Budget Blog

April 22, 2021 - Health Care Issues Update

By Stacey Mazer posted 04-22-2021 01:45 PM


HHS Renews COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra renewed, effective April 21, 2021, the public health emergency declaration originally declared January 31, 2020. The renewal remains in effect for 90 days and the Secretary may extend the declaration for subsequent 90-day periods for as long as the emergency continues. HHS previously indicated the declaration will be extended through at least the end of the calendar year. The available temporary 6.2 percentage point increase in the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) included in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act expires at the end of the quarter in which the public health emergency ends. When a decision is made to terminate the declaration or let it expire, HHS plans to provide states with 60 days’ notice prior to termination.


HHS Announces Funding Allocation for Navigators and Releases Final Numbers for 2021 Marketplace Open Enrollment

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will make $80 million available in grants to navigators in federal marketplaces for the 2022 plan year. The funding will be used for outreach and education efforts. HHS also released the 2021 marketplace open enrollment report, which shows over 12 million consumers nationally selected a marketplace plan during the 2021 open enrollment period, a 5 percent increase from the 2020 open enrollment period.


Administration Announces $1.7 Billion Investment to Better Track COVID-19 Variants

The administration announced $1.7 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act to help states and other jurisdictions improve the detection, monitoring, and mitigation of COVID-19 variants. The funds will be allocated through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as follows: $1 billion to expand genomic sequencing; $400 million to support innovation initiatives; and $300 million to build and support a National Bioinformatics Infrastructure. The release includes an initial distribution of $240 million to state and local governments for expanding genomic sequencing, which will be distributed in early May.


Funding for Health Care Providers During the Pandemic 

This brief by the Kaiser Family Foundation describes the main sources of federal funds for health care providers during the COVID-19 pandemic and how those funds have been allocated. The $178 billion Provider Relief Fund gave virtually all health care providers grants that amounted to at least 2 percent of their previous annual patient revenue. These grants could be used to cover lost revenue and unreimbursed costs associated with the pandemic. Health care providers also received nearly $68 billion in Paycheck Protection Program loans. In addition, the American Rescue Plan Act includes $9 billion for rural health care providers to help cover lost revenue and costs associated with COVID-19.


HHS Announces $150 Million for Community-Based Health Care Providers

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the availability of nearly $150 million to community-based health care providers to aid their response to COVID-19, as authorized by American Rescue Plan Act. The funds will support approximately 100 Health Center Program look-alikes for COVID-19 response, vaccination efforts, and enhanced health care services. Applications are due by May 14.


MACPAC Report Examines Medicaid and Rural Health

The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) report provides an overview of the role Medicaid plays in rural health, including policies and services that are particularly important for providing health care in rural areas. Issues discussed include provider availability, particularly for primary care services and rural hospitals, hospital payment policies for rural providers, and telehealth.


President Signs Bill Continuing Suspension of Medicare Cuts

The President signed H.R. 1868 into law, which continues an exemption of Medicare from sequestration until December 31, 2021. As a result, the statutory 2 percent reduction in Medicare payments to medical providers is paused through the rest of the calendar year. Sequestration is a process of automatic, usually across-the-board spending reductions under which budgetary resources are permanently cancelled to enforce specific budget policy goals. The bill also applies certain modified payment limits to rural health clinics that temporarily enrolled in Medicare during the public health emergency or that applied to enroll by December 31, 2020.