Budget Blog

April 29, 2021 - Health Care Issues Update

By Stacey Mazer posted 04-29-2021 05:09 PM


Federal Medicaid Spending During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This data note by the Kaiser Family Foundation analyzes federal Medicaid outlays before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the one year since the beginning of the pandemic, federal Medicaid outlays totaled $500.8 billion and grew by 19.5 percent, compared to 6.3 percent growth in the one year before the pandemic. The quarter from April to June 2020 saw particularly high outlays with outlays remaining high July 2020 through March 2021, reflecting the continued enhanced federal match as well as increased enrollment. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act authorized a 6.2 percentage point increase in the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP), retroactive to January 1, 2020, available to states meeting certain maintenance of eligibility requirements. Medicaid enrollment increased nationally by 10.8 percent from February to November 2020, a reversal of trends prior to the pandemic when enrollment was declining.


Use of Medicaid Retainer Payments During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This issue brief by the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) reviews how states are using retainer payments as a form of provider relief for home-and community-based services (HCBS) during the COVID-19 pandemic. These are temporary payments intended to preserve the financial viability of providers during disruptions in care. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many states have used retainer payment authority as a source of relief for HCBS providers experiencing decreases in utilization, temporary practice closures, or other circumstances that limit their ability to provide covered services to Medicaid beneficiaries. As of April 12, 2021, 40 states have received approval from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to expand their retainer payment policy during the COVID-19 pandemic.


HHS Announces $1 Billion from American Rescue Plan for Construction and Renovation Projects at Health Centers

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the availability of $1 billion for Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)-Health Center Program funded health centers to support major construction and renovation projects across the country. Health centers that receive this funding will be able to use it for COVID-19 related capital needs and to construct new facilities, renovate and expand existing facilities, and purchase new equipment. Applications are due to HRSA by June 24, 2021.


Altarum Institute Releases Report on Health Care Spending

National health spending in February 2021 declined by 0.3 percent from February 2020 but has been growing in recent months at rates similar to those occurring before the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to a report by the Altarum Institute. Since January 2020, spending through February 2021 increased only for home health care, which grew by 6.5 percent. The greatest decline was in dental services, at -18.8 percent. Prescription drug spending, which has been affected less by the COVID-19 pandemic than spending on most health care services, has declined month-over-month in four of the most recent five months. Altarum is a nonprofit health care research and consulting organization.


National Trends in Prescription Drug Spending in 2020 and Projections for 2021

Prescription drug spending increased by 4.9 percent in 2020 over the prior year, according to the latest trends report from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacy. The authors estimate that prescription drug spending will likely grow by 4 percent to 6 percent in 2021. The study attributed most of the growth to increased utilization and said that specialty and cancer drugs will continue to drive expenditures along with the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic.


GAO Report on Asset Verification for Medicaid Beneficiaries

This report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) looks at key questions related to electronic asset verification for Medicaid beneficiaries who are eligible because they receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The report provides an overview of what is known about how state Medicaid programs verify assets of applicants who are eligible because they receive SSI, and how the Social Security Administration, which administers the SSI program, verifies assets of SSI applicants, among other issues.