State legislatures who haven’t already must act quickly to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The coming months will continue to bring significant health care and economic challenges, both for those who contract COVID-19 and require care and for those whose access to care is threatened or disrupted. Reliable access to affordable care is all the more critical during a public health emergency, and there is a time-sensitive need to pass policies that respond to immediate health care, fiscal, and safety concerns. The pandemic is illuminating structural gaps in existing policies that can, and should, be addressed for the long-term. There are several common sense steps that state legislatures should consider to protect access to health care for those who need it, which are outlined below. This document seeks to provide state legislators with a menu of policies that should be considered immediately this year.
The list reflects what we are seeing in states, in public opinion polling, and what we are hearing directly from Americans through our community conversations. It complements the recommendations we have provided to Congress and best practices we have elevated for states.
State Legislators Can Take Immediate Action
This unprecedented moment provides leaders with the unique opportunity to ensure that our health care system is responsive to the pandemic, is accessible, and affordable—now and into the future.
The following checklist of policy priorities reflects people’s shared needs.
People want to be protected and provided with clear recommendations and steps they can take to remain safe and avoid getting sick.
- Policy Action: Provide accurate and up-to-date information.
- Policy Action: Protect populations at high-risk of contracting COVID with safe care and shelter.
- Policy Action: Resource and implement contact tracing by utilizing existing programs in state health departments, expanding executive action, pursuing public-private partnerships, or app-based solutions.
- Policy Action: Create consumer assistance programs to help people facing disruptions in coverage navigate their health care options.
People want a reliable health care system that adequately supports front-line workers.
- Policy Action: Increase quality health care workforce capacity by waiving for scope of practice and licensure requirements and pairing them with expanded training and assessment.
- Policy Action: Support rural hospitals by expanding their access to funding.
- Policy Action: Establish specific state-wide COVID mental health hotlines and expand mental health services and community workforce to meet increased need.
People want the financial and health care security they need to weather the impact of COVID-19.
- Policy Action: Protect against high out-of-pocket costs.
- Policy Action: Expand access to telehealth services for people with all coverage types.
- Policy Action: Extend Medicaid coverage for new moms to address disparities and remove financial barriers to care.
- Policy Action: Ensure insulin is affordable for a population at greater risk for serious COVID complications.
People want equitable and responsive health care safeguards that meet the needs of the most vulnerable during the pandemic.
- Policy Action: Establish state coordinated data collection to address needs and gaps, especially in vulnerable and minority communities.
- Policy Action: Adopt a comprehensive approach to people’s overall health by addressing social determinants of health through Medicaid programs.