State Health Updates: May 15, 2020
- COVID-19 Testing
- New Jersey – Governor Phil Murphy announced departmental actions from the Department of Banking and Insurance, Department of Health, Department of Human Services, and Department of Treasury to increase insurance coverage to cover expanded testing access and related services for COVID-19 and improve affordability and alleviate financial burdens for residents impacted by COVID-19.
- New York – Governor Andrew Cuomo launched a new initiative to expand access to testing in low-income communities and communities of color. The state is partnering with Northwell Health to establish an initial 24 temporary testing sites at churches in predominately minority communities in downstate New York.
- West Virginia – Governor Jim Justice and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources announced a plan to increase COVID-19 testing opportunities for minorities and other vulnerable populations in medically-underserved counties. The plan targets residents who have struggled to be seen by a physician or do not have insurance to pay for testing.
- Health Equity
- Pennsylvania – Based on recommendations of the Health Disparity Task Force, Governor Tom Wolf announced the state is now collecting sexual orientation and gender identity data as part of the state’s COVID-19 data collection effort.
- Virginia – Governor Ralph Northam announced a pilot program with the city of Richmond to support the Commonwealth’s ongoing focus on health equity. The partnership aims to increase equitable access to personal protective equipment in underserved communities that may be most adversely impacted by the virus.
- Promoting Health Insurance Coverage and Access
- Colorado – Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway sent a letter to Colorado’s Congressional delegation asking for support in the establishment of a federal reinsurance program and to provide additional federal support for people receiving financial assistance in the individual health insurance market.
- The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHSS) launched a statewide campaign to promote awareness of affordable health insurance options, particularly for people whose employment or income has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. DHHS is also collaborating with the Maine Department of Labor to inform those applying for unemployment insurance that they may be eligible for affordable health insurance options.
- CMS approved the state’s Appendix K waiver amendment to temporarily increase support to HCBS providers serving adults with physical or intellectual disabilities, brain injuries and other related conditions, and older Mainers. Approval of this waiver gives MaineCare the flexibility to increase reimbursement rates by 10 percent for the most highly utilized direct care services for these populations, with the expectation that providers will use most of this financial relief to retain and support their direct care staff.
- New Jersey – The Department of Human Services hosted an informational Zoom session to promote and discuss the available social services for families impacted by COVID-19, including information on health insurance coverage and food assistance.
- Special Enrollment Periods
- Colorado – Connect for Health Colorado announced a total of 14,263 Coloradans gained health insurance coverage during Connect for Health Colorado’s emergency SEP, which ran from March 20 to April 30.
- Washington – During the SEP held between March 10 and May 8, the Washington Health Benefit Exchange saw 22,000 customers sign up for coverage, including 7,000 uninsured residents who came in through the COVID-19 SEP. The Exchange is continuing outreach efforts to ensure that individuals who experience a qualifying life event sign up for coverage.
- Arizona – Governor Doug Ducey announced several grants and funding to expand childcare for grocery store employees and food bank workers, support kids with special health care needs, and provide additional support to food banks.
- New Jersey – Governor Phil Murphy announced the formation of a statewide council of leaders to advise on New Jersey’s restart and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. I was appointed to join the health care subcommittee and will help advise state leadership on the microeconomic health-related issues that must be taken into account when considering re-opening the state.
- New York – The Department of Health held a webinar for health care professionals to discuss the symptoms, testing and care of reported inflammatory disease in children related to COVID-19. Previously, DOH issued an advisory about this disease to inform health care providers of the condition and provide guidance for testing and reporting. DOH also released criteria to health care professionals to establish an interim case definition for COVID-related inflammatory illness in children.
Other State Updates
- Louisiana – The Louisiana Department of Health released an interim report on its Reducing Maternal Morbidity Initiative focused on reducing preventable maternal mortality and morbidity related to hemorrhage and hypertension, while also focusing on reducing racial disparities in these maternal outcomes.
- Maryland – Governor Larry Hogan announced that UnitedHealthcare has filed to offer individual health plans through Maryland Health Connection, the state-based marketplace, in 2021, joining two other insurers already offering on the marketplace.
- Minnesota – Governor Tim Walz signed the Prescription Drug Price Transparency Act into law requiring drug makers to provide a detailed rationale to the state for any large price increases on drugs that cost $100 or more for a 30-day supply.