Omnibus Funding Package with COVID-19 Relief, Health Care Extenders, and Surprise Billing Ban
After a dynamic few weeks of negotiations, President Trump signed into law on December 27, 2020 a nearly 6,000-page legislative package (The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021) that includes government appropriations through September 30, 2021; COVID-19 relief funding and targeted policy changes, a subset of which impact health programs; extensions of expiring health programs; a ban on surprise billing; and an amalgam of odds-and-ends health policy provisions.
This analysis includes a summary of the following health care provisions:
COVID-19 relief provisions, including federal and state government funding for vaccines and testing; an extension of the deadline by which state, local, and tribal governments must incur Coronavirus Relief Fund expenses; and additional funding and Provider Relief Fund policy changes.
Medicaid health care extenders, which in many cases ensure the continuation of otherwise-expiring health care programs for multiple years.
Delay in Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) allotment reductions and supplemental payment reporting requirements and other Medicaid supplemental payment provisions that could impact the amount of supplemental payments individual providers receive.
Other Medicaid provisions, including codifying in statute non-emergency medical transportation requirements.
Medicaid enrollment has increased by over 10 million (or 15 percent) from February 2020 through February 2021 across all states since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. States have a clear imperative to center health equity as they plan for the end of the public health emergency (PHE) given that Black, Latino/a, and other people of color are most at risk of coverage loss. This expert perspective highlights strategies states can implement to ensure that the end of the PHE does not exacerbate already widespread racial and ethnic disparities in our health care system.
COVID-19 vaccines are now widely accessible in the United States and free to everyone over the age of 12. Given the spread of the Delta variant, there is an urgent need to increase vaccination rates, particularly among Medicaid enrollees. States across the country continue to report Medicaid enrollees are getting vaccinated at lower rates than the general population. This expert perspective explores how state Medicaid managed care programs and health plans can work collaboratively to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates for the more than 55 million Medicaid enrollees in comprehensive managed care plans.
Many states are looking to fill gaps in race and ethnicity data for Medicaid and related agencies. Working with the State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC) at the University of Minnesota, with support from the State Health and Value Strategies (SHVS) program, New York tested multiple strategies aimed at encouraging applicants to answer the optional race and ethnicity questions. This expert perspective highlights an effort by New York’s official state-based marketplace, NY State of Health, to improve the completeness of race and ethnicity data that applicants share when applying for Medicaid; Child Health Plus, the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); the Essential Plan, New York’s Basic Health Program (BHP); or Qualified Health Plan (QHP) coverage through its Marketplace.