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Capitol Correspondence - 06.08.20

Key Committee Leaders Ask HHS for Timeline for Medicaid Emergency Funds

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Our congressional allies shared that the advocacy of ANCOR members like you played a pivotal role in prompting leaders of key congressional committees to send a letter directly questioning the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as to why COVID-19 emergency funds had not yet been disbursed as of June 3rd to Medicaid disability supports, and requesting a response on when such funding would be committed. The committee offices of U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), and U.S. Representatives Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Greg Walden (R-OR), who are the Chairs and Ranking Members of the Senate Finance Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee, respectively, sent the letter on June 3rd. See ANCOR’s statement on the letter here, and a Bloomberg article featuring commentary from ANCOR CEO Barbara Merrill and ANCOR Vice President of Government Affairs Shannon McCracken.

The intervention of these powerful committees, which have oversight over HHS, was timely; this morning, HHS announced a new Emergency Fund distribution, for which Medicaid-reliant providers of disability services will be eligible.

As written in the letter:

“HHS has, thus far, relied on methodologies that favor providers that receive a larger share of their payments from Medicare or private insurance. While HHS has made public statements regarding a commitment to develop a distribution for Medicaid providers who may not have Medicare claims, we have not yet seen public progress on such a commitment. Providers that rely heavily on Medicaid include home-and-community-based services (HCBS) providers, providers for individuals with disabilities, behavioral health providers, pediatricians, obstetricians and gynecologists, school-based providers, children’s hospitals, and many other types of essential providers, such as primary care providers and family practices. While this is not an exhaustive list, these providers represent a foundational element of our health system: care for children, care for the elderly, and care for our most vulnerable.

[…]

In order for us to properly oversee the PHSSEF, and the Medicaid program, we ask for your response to the following questions no later than June 10, 2020:

  1. What is HHS’s timeline to release a dedicated tranche of funds for Medicaid-dependent providers?
  2. How does HHS plan to release such funds to Medicaid-dependent providers?
  3. What level of funding does HHS plan to dedicate to Medicaid-dependent providers to ensure a meaningful and equitable distribution?
  4. What factors contributed to HHS waiting until May 1 to request Medicaid-dependent provider information from states?
  5. What factors have contributed to the delays in disbursing funds to Medicaid-dependent providers and how has HHS been working to resolve them as expeditiously as possible to ensure the timely release of funds?”

As written in ANCOR’s statement  on the HHS funding tranche announcement: “Without a doubt, this is a significant victory, and one that simply would not have been possible without you. […] At the same time, we know that the funding announced today represents only a small fraction of what community-based disability services will need, and our work is far from over. Therefore, we want you to be aware of our next steps:

  1. First and foremost, we will be seeking more information about how to ensure the emergency relief announced today makes its way into the bank accounts of our members. To that end, we will be keeping you apprised of what we’re hearing on the ground.
  2. Although $10 billion will not be enough for HCBS programs, there still remains about $63 billion in the Emergency Fund, and we anticipate there will be further disbursements from that fund for our services. Therefore, we will continue to advocate as we have been, and we thank you in advance for continuing to lend you voice.
  3. Especially if further Emergency Fund dollars aren’t allocated to Medicaid-dependent disability services, it will be critical that the next round of COVID-19 relief legislation includes money specifically designated for providers like you. Here again, we will be keeping our feet on the gas and look forward to engaging you in our advocacy efforts.