Each day, policy makers across the country continue to wrestle with responding to the COVID crisis and economic recession. The dynamic nature of the virus requires creative leadership to keep individuals and families safe and healthy. With many Legislatures returning to session, policy makers are taking action to respond to the public health crisis and resulting economic impacts. Below is a snapshot of the most innovative action we saw in states over the last two weeks. These policies are focused in four priority areas:
- Provide accurate information and clear recommendations on the virus and how to stay healthy and safe.
- Ensure a reliable health care system that is fully resourced to support essential workers and available when it is needed, both now and after the pandemic.
- Provide people with the financial and health care security they need to weather COVID-19 and other health care needs they face.
- Ensure a health care system that cares for everyone, including people who are vulnerable and those who were already struggling before the pandemic hit.
Provide accurate information and clear recommendations on the virus and how to stay healthy and safe.
Providing Accurate Information
- Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Office and UT Southwestern Medical Center released a new Spanish-language PSA on how Texans can protect themselves and others from COVID-19.
- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control deployed a 5-member team to the Alabama Department of Public Health to support efforts to streamline COVID-19 reporting, develop county-level indicators for use by local officials, and assist with communication to the public.
- New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced New York will offer to assist states with high infection rates, as several states begin to see spikes in COVID-19.
Testing & Contact Tracing
- The Kansas Department of Health and Environment deployed a Mobile Testing Unit to assist communities with COVID-19 testing for underserved populations.
- Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that the Texas Division of Emergency Management, in partnership with the Texas Military Department, will begin distributing 3-ply surgical masks to every Texan who undergoes COVID-19 testing at state-run mobile test collection sites.
- The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) announced that 500 county and 100 state staff are available for contact tracing efforts. In addition, OHA also recently announced funding opportunities and educational resources for Community Based Organizations (CBOs) as part of the COVID-19 response, including working on contact tracing. OHA considers CBOs central to the success of work to integrate methods, tactics and strategies that are most responsive to the needs of people of color, people with disabilities, immigrant and refugee communities, Tribes, Migrant and Seasonal Farm Workers and LGBTQIA+ communities.
Ensure a reliable health care system that is fully resourced to support essential workers and available when it is needed, both now and after the pandemic.
- Idaho Governor Brad Little signed an executive order directing state agencies to draft bill language that would institute in statute several temporary executive orders that loosened regulations on telehealth in the state – aiming to make the changes permanent.
- Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a package of bills that require health insurance companies and group/non-group health care services to cover telemedicine visits without requiring in-person visits.
- Wisconsin lawmakers introduced the “Healthcare Heroes Act” that provides benefits for health care workers, including hazard pay, paid medical leave, state-funded COVID-19 testing and treatment for those uninsured, and insurance coverage for COVID-19 testing and treatment.
Provide people with the financial and health care security they need to weather COVID-19 and other health care needs they face.
- June 30, Oklahoma voters approved a ballot measure to expand Medicaid to at least 200,000 low-income adults, making their state the first to expand government-backed health insurance during the pandemic.
- Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts announced an allocation of $85 million to support community organizations such as food banks, shelters, and mental health care providers as they face increased demand for their services due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Through a public-private partnership, North Carolina created the nation’s first statewide technology platform, NCCARE360, to coordinate whole-person care uniting traditional health care settings and organizations that address non-medical drivers of health, such as food, housing, transportation, employment and interpersonal safety. NCCARE360 is now available in all 100 counties.
- The Michigan Legislature adopted a supplemental funding bill which uses federal Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars to provide $100 million for first responder hazard pay; $2.5 million for $500 grants to laid-off hospitality workers; $1.4 million for the state to conduct infection control surveys at nursing homes; and $120 million to increase the pay of state direct care workers.
Ensure a health care system that cares for everyone, including people who are vulnerable and those who were already struggling before the pandemic hit.
- The Georgia Legislature passed a bill which extends Medicaid eligibility for women from two months after birth to six months after the birth of their child.
- The North Carolina Legislature passed a Medicaid transformation bill including moving from fee-for-service to managed care. Other provisions of the bill include: $50 million to local mental health management agencies for COVID-19 behavioral health and crisis services; allowing departmental funds for testing staff members at long-term care facilities, who often lack insurance coverage; and allowing some funds to be used for hiring temporary contact tracing staff at local health departments.
- The Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 Health Equity Advisory Group released new data and specific recommendations to inform the state’s ongoing COVID-19 pandemic response. Key recommendations include:
- Continue to disaggregate COVID data across populations and sectors, such as transit usage;
- Increase equitable distribution of personal protective equipment for essential workers and Commonwealth residents in professions most at risk;
- Implement policies that increase housing stability for populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19;
- Prioritize investments in multilingual outreach to communities to increase access to testing, home and workplace protections, and access to state assistance programs; and
- Plan and implementI a strategy for the active engagement and representation of existing community based organizations in the most-impacted communities as part of decision-making processes related to COVID-19 response and recovery.
- The Utah Legislature passed a bill that allows the state Health Department to require testing in nursing and care facilities and provides nursing homes and care facilities the option to discharge those who make that choice.
- Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced a safe and phased reopening plan for Maryland’s assisted living facilities as part of the state’s commitment to protect vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 pandemic. This plan requires universal screenings and face coverings for staff and visitors, mandates widespread testing, and allows for limited visitation.