Relief package to the rescue: Last week President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion spending package, into law. The plan seeks to support Americans as the country continues to recover from the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn. Health coverage programs will see the largest changes since the Affordable Care Act (ACA), with provisions that will strengthen Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), dramatically increase affordability in the health insurance marketplace, create new coverage opportunities for those who lost jobs, and provide significant federal funding to support states and localities.
Rescue plan and the marketplaces: The Kaiser Family Foundation released an updated marketplace calculator to account for subsidy changes in the American Rescue Plan. The Health Insurance Marketplace Calculator provides estimates of health insurance premiums and subsidies for people purchasing insurance on their own in health insurance exchanges created by the ACA. States and organizations can feature the calculator on their websites using these embed instructions. Meanwhile, state marketplaces in the District of Columbia, Minnesota and Rhode Island released statements regarding the federal changes to the ACA included in the American Rescue Plan.
COVID-19 vaccine progress:Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced that effective March 9, the COVID-19 vaccine is available for all individuals who live or work in Alaska and are age 16 and older, making Alaska the first state in the nation to lift eligibility requirements. Maineannounced a new, free option for people who need a ride to and from a COVID-19 vaccination appointment. And North Carolina updated its vaccine data dashboard to provide more demographic data on people who are partially or fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The evidence on Medicaid demonstration requirements: A new issue brief by the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation Office of Health Policy examines policies in four major areas of state Medicaid Section 1115 demonstrations: work requirements, healthy behavior incentive programs, health savings account-like arrangements, and capped federal funding and other financing changes.
Lifting, or adding, requirements for Medicaid recipients: The Trump Administration’s public charge rule is no longer in effect following the Supreme Court’s dismissal this week of a lawsuit challenging the rule, and the Department of Homeland Security released a statement that it will return to pre-Trump Administration public charge policy, which is governed by 1999 field guidance. Meanwhile, the Louisiana Department of Health is flagging for Medicaid enrollees that if they receive stimulus checks or unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 public health emergency, they may need to report the income to Medicaid.
New methods to access services:Colorado released Health First Colorado Telemedicine Evaluation: An Analysis of Telemedicine During the COVID-19 Pandemic, a report which evaluates the telemedicine policy changes Colorado has implemented and what is known thus far about their impacts on access to care and utilization, health equity, quality and member outcomes, and payment and reimbursement. Pennsylvaniaannounced that Pennsylvanians can now apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over the phone. This accessibility enhancement will benefit the growing number of Pennsylvanians participating in the program during times of economic challenges, like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other State Updates:
Connecticut – Access Health CT, the state’s official health insurance marketplace, recently published Health Disparities and Social Determinants of Health in Connecticut, a report summarizing a data-grounded project designed to identify the needs and opportunities of many communities in Connecticut.
Minnesota – MNsure, the state’s official marketplace, announced that 2,285 Minnesotans have signed up for private health insurance coverage since the start of MNsure's special enrollment period on Feb. 16.
New York – NY State of Health, the state’s official health plan marketplace, announced that across all marketplace programs enrollment increased by nearly 885,000 people from the end of the 2020 Open Enrollment Period in February 2020 to the end of February 2021.
Oregon – The Oregon Health Authority announced members of the next PartnerSHIP, the decisionmaking body overseeing the 2020-2024 State Health Improvement Plan known as Healthier Together Oregon.
Wisconsin – The Department of Human Services is working in partnership with the Department of Public Instruction, the Department of Children and Families, and schools across the state to issue benefits to children missing free or reduced price school means for the 2020-2021 school year.
StateNetwork.org consolidates timely, high-quality resources on state health policy for busy policymakers and researchers. This project is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.