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News & Press: Updates for Members

Legislative Health Care Working Group Proposals and Session Update

Friday, April 24, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Kay Castillo
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In March, as a response to the pandemic, the North Carolina House of Representatives set up special subcommittees to study and address needs related to COVID19. Working groups included health care, education, economic, and continuity of state operations.

When legislators adjourned the 2019 legislative session, they set April 28, 2020 as the date to return to Raleigh for the short session. House members will keep this date and continue session as scheduled. However, precautions will take place. Entry to the legislative building will be limited to staff, legislators, and credentialed press. Temperatures will be taken before those designated individuals can come into the building. House members plan to have bills ready to go by the 28th. Bills will be heard and amended in committee on the 29th and votes will be taken on the 30th. Legislators will expand the typical fifteen seconds allowed to vote to give legislators more time and space to vote. Lastly, all committee meetings and House floor sessions will be streamed on YouTube. More details on how the Senate will handle committees and vote will be announced later.

On Thursday, April 23, 2020, the Legislative Health Care Working Group discussed their proposals addressing health care needs. Below are two bill proposals, one addressing policy and one addressing funding needs. These bills will be presented in session next week and voted on by April 30.

The following is an overview of both bills:

Policy Recommendations

This bill covers the time period of March 10, 2020 until Executive Order 116 (the North Carolina State of Emergency) is rescinded by the Governor through another Executive Order. Click here to view the draft bill. Bill items relevant to the social work profession:

  • Requires a Strategic State Stockpile plan for creating and maintaining a stockpile of personal protection equipment (PPE) and testing supplies. This stockpile would be accessible by public and private facilities including long term care facilities, health care providers, non-healthcare entities, etc. The planning for this stockpile would require anticipating a five-year budget for establishing and maintaining.
  • Directs North Carolina AHEC to study the state’s workforce during this pandemic and the aftermath. AHEC will consult with all stakeholders involved and a report is due November 15, 2020 to the NCGA.
  • Gives the Department of Health and Human Services flexibility to respond to the pandemic as needed.
  • Extends providers who were to connect and submit data to the state starting June 1, 2020 to October 1, 2021. This is HUGE for clinical social workers that needed to be connected by June 1, 2020.
  • Allows for temporary Medicaid coverage to individuals whose incomes are at 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. Additionally, the bill will cover testing for uninsured individuals during the nationwide emergency.
  • Waives the 72 hours of child welfare preservice training until December 31, 2020 or until Executive Order 116 is rescinded. The Division is authorized to identify and use web-based training as an acceptable equivalent in meeting preservice training requirement.
  • Allows for telehealth of the first and second exams for involuntary commitments as long as the examiner is sure a different result would not be had with an in person visit. This provision expires 60 days after Executive Order 116 is rescinded or December 31, 2020, whichever is earlier.
  • Directs all health plans offered in the state to cover telehealth, both audio-only or electronic only. Insurance plans must cover mental and behavioral health care, no prior authorization is needed, and reimbursement to providers must be at the same cost of face to face visits. This provision expires at the end of this year.
  • Urges the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to cover audio-only telehealth for Medicare. This is an NASW-NC request and something our National office is pushing as well.

Funding recommendations

For the identified funding measures, all funds are nonrecurring and come from $480 million of the Coronavirus relief fund from the CARES Act. Additionally, legislators are estimating Medicaid receipts through June 30 for spending measures. Click here to access the draft document.

Funding highlights:

  • $25 million to support public health and rural health providers.
  • $25 million to support behavioral health and crisis services, divert from emergency departments. $12.6 million to LME/MCOs for I/DD facilities on per diem basis.
  • Medicaid Provider Rate Increases as of March 1, 2020 through the duration of the public health emergency, that all fee for service Medicaid rates will be increased by 5%.
  • $25 million to DHHS to expand public and private testing, tracking, and analysis to build capacity for widespread testing, increasing research, and infrastructure to develop better models.
  • $25 million to (1) adult and child protective services response; (2) support for homeless and domestic violence shelters and housing security, including prevention, diversion, and rapid re-housing assistance; (3) child care response; and (4) technology modifications to support COVID-19 emergency relief beneficiaries.
  • $6 million to the state’s six food banks.
  • Supplemental payments for foster care: $2,250,000 million is allocated to assist children in foster care. Families should receive $100 per child per month from April-June 2020.
  • $75 million to rural hospitals- grants to eligible hospitals within thirty days of application.
  • $1,500,000 million to NC MedAssist for providing prescription assistance.

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