COVID-19

One week ago, in light of the growing COVID-19 crisis, I noted that California, the District of Columbia and Maryland were each offering Special Enrollment Periods which had nothing whatsoever to do with the pandemic.

California's SEP is for uninsured residents who didn't know that the state had reinstated the individual mandate penalty and expanded financial subsidies to those earning 400-600% of the Federal Poverty Line; DC is offering one for those who didn't know they had also reinstated the mandate penalty; and Maryland passed a clever law last year which lets residents check a box when they file their state taxes if they're uninsured which tells the state to contact them to help them enroll.

I concluded that:

...as far as I know, there's nothing preventing other state-based exchanges from establishing Special Enrollment Periods for the coronavirus crisis if they want to.

Louisiana's 2020 Presidential primary was scheduled for April 4th, but the other day Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards and Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin agreed to reschedule it for June 20th...which is actually later than the last previously-scheduled primary in the U.S. Virgin Islands on June 6th:

The presidential primary elections in Louisiana slated for April will be delayed by two months, the latest in a series of dramatic steps government leaders have taken to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, Republican, and Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, both said Friday they would use a provision of state law that allows them to move any election in an emergency situation to delay the primary.

The presidential primary elections, initially scheduled for April 4th, will now be held June 20th. Ardoin said in a press conference he does not know of any other states that have moved elections because of the new coronavirus, or COVID-19.

As I've noted before, Maryland is already offering a SEP for uninsured residents to #GetCovered when they file their state taxes by checking off a box, but today they went one step further and created an official Coronavirus SEP as well, which is open to any eligible uninsured residents whether they're utilizing the "check the box" tax form option or not:

Coronavirus emergency launches one-month special enrollment period

As part of the state’s overall response to the coronavirus, and in an effort to prioritize health and safety, Maryland Health Connection opened a new special enrollment period for uninsured Marylanders.

When will the special enrollment period begin?

  • The coronavirus emergency special enrollment period will begin Monday, March 16, and end Wednesday, April 15. Coverage will begin April 1, 2020, regardless of when a health plan is selected during that time period.

How do I enroll?

via HealthSource RI:

Special Enrollment Period (SEP) Available to Purchase Coverage through HealthSource RI as a Part of the State’s Response to COVID-19

  •     Special Enrollment Period will be available through April 15, 2020

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (March 14, 2020) — HealthSource RI has adopted a limited-time Special Enrollment Period (SEP), following Governor Raimondo’s State of Emergency declaration in response to the potential growth of Coronavirus (COVID-19). This SEP will allow uninsured Rhode Islanders to purchase coverage through April 15, 2020. Coverage will begin on the first of the month following the application.

CMS Publishes FAQs to Ensure Individuals, Issuers and States have Clear Information on Coverage Benefits for COVID-19

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is posting Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Essential Health Benefits (EHB) Coverage in response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This action is part of the broader, ongoing effort by the White House Coronavirus Task Force to ensure that all Americans – particularly those at high-risk of complications from the COVID-19 virus – have access to the health benefits that can help keep them healthy while helping to contain the spread of this disease.

“Amid a serious outbreak like this one, Americans understandably crave the security and peace of mind that comes from understanding exactly how they will be covered.” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “Today’s guidance aims to give it to them. Working closely with states and issuers around the country, the Trump Administration will continue to provide pertinent information to strengthen the nation’s response and keep Americans informed.”

Host: "Before I let you go, I want to ask you one more time: Are there gonna be people in this country who don't get a ventilator if they need one? Are you concerned that the actual physical equipment that is needed to serve the people who will get sick is out there...can you reassure everyone that there is not a shortage of ventilators or ICO units?"

Verma: "And that's why the President has taken such a bold and decisive action, right? We're not waiting for this to get worse, we're not waiting for this to be a crisis in our healthcare systems, and that's why the mitigation strategies that he announced last night, limiting travel from Europe, not allowing that, umm...you know, we've given travel advisories on cruise ships. That's why we're taking all of this action, because we don't want to put stress on the healthcare system."

Host: (pause) "...OK...that's not a...direct answer to the question..."

For the record, according to the New York Times:

Michigan:

Governor Whitmer Announces Statewide Closure of All K-12 School Buildings; School building closures will last Monday, March 16 through Sunday, April 5

Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced that in order to slow the spread of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Michigan, she is ordering the closure of all K-12 school buildings, public, private, and boarding, to students starting Monday, March 16 until Sunday, April 5. School buildings are scheduled to reopen on Monday, April 6. 

As of tonight, the number of presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Michigan is 12. 

You may already have seen the simple graphic below (this version was designed by Drew Harris), but if you haven't, here it is: #FlattenTheCurve.

This one, simple graphic instantly explains everything you need to understand about why "social distancing", including the massive cancellations of practically every large (or even medium-sized) public event is happening at a frighteningly fast rate even as I'm typing this.

The NBA? Shut down. Broadway? Shut down. The Capitol? Closed to the public. Entire school districts? Being closed left and right (including our own).

I'm sure you've noticed that I've been posting more frequently about Michigan re. COVID-19 stuff than other states; there's a simple reason--my family and I live here. I'll still be posting major breaking developments for other states as well, of course, but I'm understandably more attuned to what's going on in my own state...

via Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer's office:

Whitmer Administration Expands Telemedicine, Urges President Trump to Permit ACA Special Enrollment Period During COVID-19

via the House Ways & Means Committee:

HOUSE DEMOCRATS INTRODUCE FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT

  • Legislation provides paid leave, establishes free testing, protects health workers, and provides important benefits to children and families

WASHINGTON, DC — House Democrats today introduced the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to bolster the federal government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak and address the severe impacts of the coronavirus on Americans’ personal safety and financial security.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, expected to be considered in the House on Thursday, is sponsored by Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey (D-NY) and co-sponsored by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA), Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ).

BREAKING: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is allowing Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare drug plans to waive cost-sharing for #COVID2019 testing, treatments delivered by telehealth, prescription refill limits, among other things.
https://t.co/LXCyroChSU pic.twitter.com/0xhbeGButN

— Shira Stein (@shiramstein) March 11, 2020

Here's the full memo:

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is issuing this information to Medicare Advantage Organizations and Part D Sponsors to inform them of the obligations and permissible flexibilities related to disasters and emergencies resulting from COVID-19.

Medicare Advantage Organizations

Special Requirements

via the Massachusetts Health Connector:

Massachusetts Health Connector offers extended enrollment for uninsured individuals to ease coronavirus fears

BOSTON – March 11, 2020 – To ensure everyone who wants access to covered coronavirus services has it, the Massachusetts Health Connector announced today that uninsured residents can apply and get into coverage through a 45-day window running until April 25.

On March 6, the Division of Insurance announced that Massachusetts health insurers are now required to cover the cost of testing and treatment for members who may be affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19), including not charging co-pays or deductibles for those services. The Health Connector’s decision to open enrollment to anyone without coverage ensures Massachusetts residents concerned about contracting coronavirus can access necessary services without cost barriers.

A few days ago, in light of HHS Secretary Alex Azar admitting that neither he nor anyone else at the HHS Dept. appears to have the slightest idea about how many Americans have actually been tested for coronavirus, I kiddingly mused:

Maybe I should register CoronaTestCount.net and start up an amateur spreadsheet to track this by state for the HHS Dept...hmmmm...

I was kidding, however, because my own plate is simply too full to take on that task as well.

Fortunately, I don't have to, because someone else has already stepped up to do exactly that. Via Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo:

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