Texas is expected to receive billions of dollars in additional Medicaid money after a senior federal health official announced that the Biden government is expected to maintain the public health emergency reported for the pandemic through the end of the year.
The boom in the state-federal joint program, which provides health care to low-income and disabled people, will be a boon to national budget drafters faced with expected stagnant revenues and a long list of spending items.
An expansion of the emergency would also extend Medicaid coverage to some Texans.
Acting secretary of the US Department of Health, Norris Cochran, said in a letter to governors that extending the emergency through the end of the year would provide “predictability and stability” for states to cope with the pandemic response.
“To reassure you of our commitment to the ongoing response, we have determined that the (public health emergency) is likely to remain in place for all of 2021. If a decision is made to cancel or let the statement expire, will HHS do this. ” Give states 60 days’ notice before giving notice, ”Cochran said in the letter the American statesman received.
Any extension of the emergency would also expand the provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which prevents states from removing people from the Medicaid program during the pandemic, even if their circumstances change and they no longer meet the eligibility requirements.
To be eligible for Medicaid benefits in Texas, an individual must have an annual income below a certain threshold ($ 51,876 for a family of four) and either be pregnant, be the parent or carer of children, have a disability, or a family member with a disability or be 65 or older.
In March, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced that the state would suspend Medicaid renewal requirements “until further notice.”
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Extending the emergency would also extend a temporary increase in federal Medicaid dollars provided by the Family First Coronavirus Response Act.
The federal government compares state spending on Medicaid based on per capita income for each state. Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the federal Medicaid matching rate will increase 6.2 percentage points – an increase that will last as long as the country is in a public health emergency.
In previous years, the federal government hit Texas at around 60%, a figure that rose to 67% according to an analysis by the Medicaid and CHIP Payments and Access Commission under the Emergency Ordinance.
“That additional 6.2% comes to billions of federal funds,” said Anne Dunkelberg, assistant director of Every Texan, formerly the center for public order priorities. “Assuming this public health emergency will last through the end of the fiscal year, we won’t need as many government dollars to finalize our current budget and it is possible that we will do so in the next budget, which is next September will also need less. ”
Legislators meeting in Austin for this year’s legislature have released draft state budgets for the next two years early and are working on creating the supplementary budget that will cover all remaining expenses for the current fiscal year.
Texas has a budget gap of nearly $ 1 billion for the current year, meaning the state is not on track to generate enough revenue to cover the cost of previously budgeted expenses.
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Texas Health and Human Services Commission spokeswoman Kelli Weldon said when the agency submitted an application for funding to state lawmakers prior to this year’s legislature, the public health emergency expired before the new budget went into effect.
“We have received the letter and are analyzing the potential impact on the state and the Texas Medicaid program,” said Weldon, referring to the letter from the Department of Health and Human Services.
In the context of the public health emergency, the Federal Health Office has also issued a series of exemptions that suspend the federal supervisory and reporting obligations in certain areas – including telemedicine. The government can also issue emergency permits for diagnoses, treatments, and vaccines against the coronavirus.
The emergency statement was first published in late January 2020 and has since been renewed four times, most recently by former Minister of Health and Human Services Alex Azar earlier this month. The current emergency status is valid until April 21st and can be extended by 90 days.