Senate Plan Won’t Help Alabama Meet Growing Need for Health Coverage

By  | July 30, 2020 | Filed under: News

Jane Adams

MONTGOMERY –  As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations spike across Alabama, our state is facing a critical moment in this pandemic. The Senate Republican COVID-19 relief plan released Monday won’t help Alabama meet the growing need for health coverage. Jane Adams, campaign director of the nonpartisan Cover Alabama Coalition, said in a statement Tuesday:

“Alabamians’ need for Medicaid coverage has surged during the coronavirus pandemic, as unemployment skyrockets and the economy declines. The Senate Republican proposal ignores this growing need, despite bipartisan calls for additional federal Medicaid funding for states.   The failure to invest in Medicaid is particularly disastrous for people of color, who are more likely to lose coverage or to already lack coverage and to have a preexisting condition that requires ongoing care well beyond testing and COVID-19 treatment.

 

“Alabama’s fiscal outlook is uncertain. Additional federal support for Medicaid is essential to preventing coverage and enrollment cuts. Alabama needs economic stimulus, and enhanced Medicaid funding is a proven tool to both save lives and accelerate state economic recovery. We ask Alabama’s congressional delegation to put Alabamians first by calling on congressional leaders to provide additional Medicaid funding.”

Last week, 40 Alabama organizations sent a letter to U.S. Sens. Doug Jones and Richard Shelby urging Congress to provide substantial additional funding for Medicaid.

 

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.

 

Additional Background:

 

During economic downturns, FMAP increases have been shown to prevent or mitigate Medicaid cuts and strengthen states’ economies. For example, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Kaiser Family Foundation researchers concluded that FMAP increases during the Great Recession helped states avoid Medicaid cuts.

 

FMAP increases are especially important for protecting provider payments during economic downturns. 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 FMAP increase of 6.2 percentage points 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 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, the Cover Alabama Coalition is calling on Congress to start working immediately on a new package that substantially increases the FMAP, as the bipartisan National Governors Association has urged. This should include:

 

  • Providing a substantial additional FMAP increase.

  • Keeping higher FMAPs in place until the labor market and state budgets recover, but at least through June 30, 2021.

  • Continuing strong maintenance-of-effort (MOE) protections that prevent cuts to coverage.

 

Media Release/Jane Adams/Cover Alabama 

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