Budget Blog

May 27, 2021 - Health Care Issues Update

By Stacey Mazer posted 05-27-2021 12:00 AM


HHS Dedicates $4.8 Billion from American Rescue Plan Act to COVID-19 Testing for the Uninsured

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), is dedicating $4.8 billion from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act to support the HRSA COVID-19 Uninsured Program. This funding will allow the program to continue reimbursing health care providers for testing uninsured individuals for COVID-19. As of May 19, 2021, the program has issued nearly $4 billion in testing reimbursements to providers. HRSA also helps uninsured individuals’ access COVID-19 treatment and vaccinations through the COVID-19 Uninsured Program and reimburses providers at national Medicare rates for providing these services. As of May 19, 2021, the program has issued over $2.5 billion toward reimbursing providers for delivering COVID-19 treatment and over $85 million for vaccinating the uninsured.


COVID-19 Program Flexibilities and Considerations for Their Continuation

As part of the CARES Act, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducts monitoring and oversight of the federal government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) made widespread use of program waivers and other flexibilities to expand beneficiary access to care in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. GAO has reported certain flexibilities, such as telehealth, as critical in reducing obstacles to care. While likely benefitting beneficiaries and providers, these program flexibilities also increase certain risks to the Medicare and Medicaid programs and raise considerations for their continuation beyond the pandemic, according to GAO. Telehealth waivers, for example, can increase spending in both programs, if telehealth services are furnished in addition to in-person services.


Health Care-Related Taxes in Medicaid

This brief by the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) describes the current use of health care-related taxes in Medicaid, the history and current state of the rules governing their use, and the potential effects of changes to these policies. Health care-related taxes have become a more common funding source for state Medicaid programs over the past 15 years. In fiscal 2019, 49 states and the District of Columbia imposed at least one health care-related tax, up from 35 states in fiscal 2004. In fiscal 2019, 45 states levied at least one tax on nursing facilities, 43 states levied hospital taxes, and 35 states levied taxes on intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities.


CDC Releases New Resource for Tracking COVID-19 Funding

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new resource for tracking COVID-19 funding received by the CDC. The CDC website provides a map and a search function of awards to state and local governments, tribes, and territories. The source data are available here.


Altarum Institute Releases Report on Health Care Spending

National health spending in March 2021 increased by 12.5 percent relative to spending in March 2020. Since January 2020, before the pandemic-induced drop began, the net growth in national health spending was 1.8 percent through March 2021. The magnitude of the drop and subsequent recovery has varied by category of spending, with only home health care and hospital spending reaching levels in March 2021 that exceeded their January 2020 levels. The March 2021 gross domestic product (GDP) growth over a 12- month period was 7.6 percent. Health care spending share of the GDP was 17.8 percent in March 2021, slightly down from the 18.1 percent in February 2021. Altarum is a nonprofit health care research and consulting organization.