Free Clinics Try To Fill Gaps As COVID Sweeps Away Job-Based Insurance

April 30, 2020, Kaiser Health News, Michaela Gibson Morris - Before COVID-19, Mississippi had a high rate of uninsured: 18% for adults ages 19-64 compared with 12% nationally, according to the Center for Mississippi Health Policy. The state did not expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act and very few able-bodied adults can qualify under the state’s requirements. “We anticipate we will see a lot more people falling into the coverage gap,” said Roy Mitchell, executive director of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, a nonprofit that operates a help line for consumers with Medicaid, ACA and private health insurance issues. “It will only get worse.” He does not see how the state can continue to avoid expanding Medicaid eligibility on ideological grounds as the long-term effects of the pandemic and economic disruption hit Mississippi families and rural hospitals. “Right now, the state needs every tool to fight coronavirus and stay safe,” Mitchell said.

Trump administration skimps on coronavirus aid for Medicaid providers

April 30, 2020, The Los Angeles Times, Noam N. Levey - The Trump administration’s program to aid hospitals and doctors on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis is leaving behind the nation’s Medicaid safety net — the pediatricians, mental health providers and hospitals that serve the poorest patients. That result is likely to deepen inequalities in America’s healthcare system as tens of billions of dollars of federal assistance go primarily to large medical systems that serve higher-income patients with Medicare or private health insurance.

Reopening Means Contact Tracing. Many States Aren’t Ready.

April 29, 2020, Pew Trusts, Christine Vestal & Michael Ollove - In mid-March, Jenine Clements’ boss asked her to set aside at least 24 hours out of her work week to call people who’ve tested positive for COVID-19. The goal was to locate people who had been in close contact with an infected patient and make sure they quarantined for two weeks to stop the spread. Clements, 41, is a disease investigation specialist for the Washtenaw County Health Department in Michigan and, for more than 17 years, she’s made similar calls to people who test positive for other diseases, including HIV, syphilis and hepatitis C.

COVID Tests Are Free, Except When They’re Not

April 29, 2020, Kaiser Health News, Carmen Heredia Rodriguez - Experts recommend that insured patients educate themselves about their health care plan. Seek care at an in-network provider whenever possible. Call the insurer to find out exactly what COVID-19 care it covers. Several insurance companies have pledged to waive cost sharing for treatment. Uninsured consumers may be able to get a free COVID-19 test several ways, Pollitz said. One way is to visit an outpatient testing area at a facility that received relief funding — the law bars the provider from balance-billing patients for care related to the coronavirus. Another option is through Medicaid. States may now use the government health insurance program for the poor and disabled to cover the cost of testing uninsured residents who qualify. A third way consumers could receive a free COVID-19 test is through the National Disaster Medical System. That network of health care providers — generally activated in response to an emergency — treats patients and then charges the federal government for their services, said Pollitz. However, she acknowledged, it may be difficult to find a provider who participates in the program.“The problem right now is the supply of them,” Sara Collins, vice president for health care coverage and access at the Commonwealth Fund, said about COVID-19 tests. “But once that changes, people need to be confident that they’re not going to be stuck with a big bill.”

Five things to know about where the US stands on COVID-19 tests

April 28, 2020, The Hill, Nathaniel Weixel - Joshua Sharfstein, a former Food and Drug Administration official and a vice dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said the federal government has been shirking its responsibilities. “This is a once in a century challenge, but the federal government has not embraced its role,” Sharfstein said. “States and the labs themselves are having issues, and the failure of federal leaders is being felt.” Scott Becker, CEO of the Association of Public Health Laboratories, said he agrees states should be in charge of their testing strategies, but the federal government still has an important role. “The states are responsible for how the strategy will work in their state, but that is dependent upon an expanded and consistent supply chain, and that is really where the federal government comes in,” Becker said. “Sometimes it’s really just a phone call, but sometimes it’s the weight of the government coming in and expanding whatever is necessary.” But the Trump administration’s blueprint on Monday said the federal government should only be a “supplier of last resort.”

The Other COVID Risks: How Race, Income, ZIP Code Influence Who Lives Or Dies

April 22, 2020, Kaiser Health News, Liz Szabo and Hannah Recht - Medical and socioeconomic conditions put Mississippians at higher risk of COVID-19 in several ways, said Frieden, now CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, a global public health initiative. People in low-income or minority communities are more likely to work in jobs that expose them to the virus ― in factories or grocery stores and public transit, for example. They’re less likely to have paid sick leave and more likely to live in crowded housing. They have high rates of chronic illness. They also have less access to health care, especially routine preventive services. Mississippi is one of 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid.