Senate Republican HEALS Act Plan Won’t Help Utah Meet Growing Need for Health Coverage
Congress Should Provide Additional Medicaid Funding to Help States Meet Need
For Immediate Release July 28, 2020
Stacy Stanford | 801-718-6130
Salt Lake City, UT– The Senate Republican COVID-19 relief plan released yesterday won’t help Utah meet the growing need for health coverage amidst a massive budget crisis Matt Slonaker, Executive Director at Utah Health Policy Project said in a statement today:
“Utahns’ need for Medicaid coverage has surged during the coronavirus pandemic, as high unemployment persists and the economy stagnates. The Senate Republican proposal ignores this growing need, despite bipartisan calls for additional federal Medicaid funding for states. Their plan doesn’t include the funds states need to help them avert damaging cuts to Medicaid and other critical health services. We ask Sen. Lee and Sen. Romney to put Utahns first by calling on congressional leaders to provide additional Medicaid funding and other badly-needed state aid, as well as assistance for struggling workers and families.”
Utah’s unemployment rate increased from 2.5% in February to 10.4% in May before dipping slightly to 8.6% in June. While Medicaid in Utah rose 11.6% between February and June according to data from the Utah Medical Care Advisory Committee. That increase translates into 33,899 more Utahns enrolled in Medicaid.
Utahns’ growing need for Medicaid coverage coincides with a massive budget crisis for Utah and states across the country: budget shortfalls are projected to total $555 billion nationwide through state fiscal year 2022, largely because revenue collections have fallen precipitously and will not recover until the virus is controlled and economic activity rebounds. Recent state budget forecasts estimate that there will be an $850 Million dollar shortfall in tax revenue compared to pre-pandemic estimates.
Congress took an important first step in March by increasing the share of Medicaid costs paid by the federal government (the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage, or FMAP) and putting protections in place that keep states from cutting eligibility or taking away coverage from current enrollees. Still, there is bipartisan consensus that states need additional federal Medicaid dollars. For example, the National Governors Association, the National Conference of Mayors, other organizations of state officials, health providers, (including the Utah Hospital Association), health plans, and patient advocates (including 16 Utah groups), recently called on Congress to provide substantial additional funding for Medicaid, continue that funding until the economy recovers, and to provide additional grant aid to help states avoid cuts to health care, education, and other crucial services.
FMAP increases are especially important for protecting provider payments. In a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 38 states said the additional federal funding helped them avoid or limit cuts to provider payments for fiscal year 2009 (and 35 states for 2010). Researchers have also found that the Great Recession FMAP increase was an especially efficient form of stimulus, strengthening states’ economies and preserving jobs.
While the 6.2 percentage point FMAP increase enacted in March as part of the Families First bill was a good first step, it is much smaller than the Great Recession FMAP increase and it will end whenever the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declares the public health emergency over, even if the economy and state budgets are still in crisis.
To avoid harmful Medicaid cuts and protect coverage during the public health and economic crises, Utah Health Policy Project, and 15 of our partners, are calling on Congress to immediately start working on a new package that substantially increases the share of Medicaid costs paid by the federal government (the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage, or FMAP) – as the bipartisan National Governors Association has urged. This should include:
Providing a substantial additional FMAP increase, along the lines of the increase of 14 percentage point increase in the House-passed Heroes Act.
Keeping higher FMAPs in place until the labor market and state budgets recover, but at least through June 30, 2021 (as in the House-passed Heroes Act).
Continuing strong maintenance-of-effort (MOE) protections that prevent cuts to coverage.
More information from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities about the HEALS Act and what is missing linked HERE.
Utah Health Policy Project (UHPP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advancing sustainable health care solutions for underserved Utahns through better access, education, and public policy.
Since 2006 UHPP has worked hard to develop solutions to create a health system that provides better access to higher quality health care at a lower cost. We pride ourselves on being an open resource for the public, community leaders, the media, businesses, health care providers, and policymakers.
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