As States Face Budget Crisis that Threatens the Medicaid System, Health Plans Call on Congress to Act

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Thursday, July 30, 2020

L.A. Care Leads the Call for Emergency Assistance

LOS ANGELES – L.A. Care Health Plan, the largest publicly operated health plan in the country, has been leading an effort to get Congress to take specific steps to strengthen the Medicaid system during the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting recession. Over time, COVID-19 job losses are expected to increase Medicaid enrollment across the country. If Congress fails to act, Medicaid beneficiaries, including many from communities of color already disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, will suffer the consequences.

After the 2008 financial crisis, Congress moved to shore up the Medicaid system, and it must do so in this recession,” said John Baackes, L.A. Care CEO. “The COVID-19 pandemic is further straining state budgets across the country, and without federal action, there could be major cuts to Medicaid benefits.”

Today, under L.A. Care’s leadership, all 16 California public health plans submitted a second letter to the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives and the state’s congressional delegation calling for legislation to ensure Medicaid can continue to provide millions of people across the country full access to health care. The plans, including L.A. Care, are disappointed that Congress has yet to act on legislation that would do more to protect Medicaid beneficiaries. A similar letter, signed by the 16 California public health plans and 15 commercial plans from across the country, is being sent to Congressional leadership on Monday, August 3. Both letters outline five critical measures that should be included in the next COVID-19 relief package:

  • Increase Federal Share of Medicaid Funding for Two Years – States will experience a decline in revenues, just as the need for services, like Medicaid, jumps. While this will be a temporary state of affairs, analysis reveals states will require as much as $192 billion in additional federal funding to sustain Medicaid programs over a two-year period.
  • Suspend the Proposed Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Rule (MFAR) – Released late last year, the proposal would reduce the amount of funding provided to states as part of their Medicaid matching funds.  This is no time to be reducing funding without the proper analysis to understand the impact on states.
  • Extend Presumptive Eligibility for Medicaid – Counties across the country are going to be under considerable pressure to process all applications in a timely manner during the surge in Medicaid enrollment. Presumptive eligibility provides immediate short-term health care coverage for those who appear to be eligible for Medicaid after suffering a job loss. Without it, they could wait weeks or months to complete the enrollment process.
  • Make Access to Telehealth Permanent – Payment for telehealth services was approved for Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries during the pandemic to ensure patients could access covered services. The increased use of telehealth services helped limit spread of the virus and has proven to be an effective alternative to in-person doctor visits.
  • Cease Implementation of the Public Charge Rule – The rule, which now lists Medicaid and other necessary services for consideration when applying for a green card, has already created a chilling effect among those in the country legally. A pandemic is no time to have people avoid medical care in order to protect their future immigration status. Although a federal court has issued a temporary injunction on the new Public Charge rule, we still want Congressional action. 

L.A. Care applauds the efforts taken so far to help workers, small businesses, providers and hospitals during this crisis, but Congress must include significant support for states and the Medicaid system in the next relief package. Instituting the five measures outlined above will help ensure better health outcomes for communities all across this country.



About L.A. Care Health Plan

L.A. Care Health Plan serves more than 2.1 million members in Los Angeles County, making it the largest publicly operated health plan in the country. L.A. Care offers four health coverage plans including Medi-Cal, L.A. Care Covered™, L.A. Care Cal MediConnect Plan and the PASC-SEIU Homecare Workers Health Care Plan, all dedicated to being accountable and responsive to members. As a public entity, L.A. Care’s mission is to provide access to quality health care for L.A. County's low-income communities, and to support the safety net required to achieve that purpose. L.A. Care prioritizes quality, access and inclusion, elevating health care for all of L.A. County. For more information, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.


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