Colorado Health Advocates Blast Inadequate Senate GOP COVID Package
Congress Should Provide Additional Medicaid Funding to Help States Heal
Denver, CO – The Senate Republican COVID-19 relief plan released today will not help Colorado meet the growing need for health coverage amidst a massive budget crisis Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement with Colorado Consumer Health Initiative said in a statement today:
“Coloradans’ 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. Their plan does not include the funds states need to avert damaging cuts to Medicaid and other critical health services. We ask Sen. Bennet and Sen. Gardner to put Coloradans first by calling on Senate leaders to provide additional Medicaid funding and other badly-needed state aid, as well as assistance for struggling workers and families.
“The Senate Republican plan is really a disservice to all of us by not focusing on the needs of our communities and failing to heal the devastation brought by COVID-19. It’s irresponsible and won’t help Coloradans or our state weather and recover from this crisis.”
With Colorado’s unemployment rate increasing from 2.5 percent in February to 10.5 percent in June, Medicaid enrollment in Colorado is predicted to increase by roughly 500,000 by the end of the year.
Coloradans’ growing need for Medicaid coverage coincides with a massive budget crisis for Colorado and states across the country: budget shortfalls are projected to total $555 billion nationwide through state fiscal year 2022, largely because revenue collections have fallen precipitously and will not recover until the virus is controlled and economic activity rebounds. Already, to address a $3 billion shortfall, Colorado has had to make difficult cuts to the Medicaid program even as more and more people will need Medicaid services.
To avoid harmful Medicaid cuts and protect coverage during the public health and economic crises, 57 diverse Colorado organizations are calling on Congress to ensure this COVID relief package substantially increases the share of Medicaid costs paid by the federal government (the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage, or FMAP) – as the bipartisan National Governors Association has urged. This should include:
Providing a substantial additional FMAP increase, along the lines of the 14 percentage point increase in the House-passed Heroes Act.
Keeping higher FMAPs in place until the labor market and state budgets recover, but at least through June 30, 2021 (as in the House-passed Heroes Act).
Continuing strong maintenance-of-effort (MOE) protections that prevent cuts to coverage.
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, while an AARP study found they helped prevent cuts to home- and community-based Medicaid services.
FMAP increases are especially important for protecting provider payments. 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 6.2 percentage point FMAP increase 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 (HHS) declares the public health emergency over, even if the economy and state budgets are still in crisis. There is bipartisan consensus that states need additional federal Medicaid dollars. The National Governors Association, the National Conference of Mayors, other organizations of state officials, health providers, health plans, and patient advocates, recently called on Congress to provide substantial additional funding for Medicaid, continue that funding until the economy recovers, and to provide additional grant aid to help states avoid cuts to health care, education, and other crucial services.
Colorado Consumer Health Initiative is a nonpartisan, nonprofit group that represents 40+ Colorado health organizations with more than 500,000 health care consumers advocating for equitable access to high-quality, affordable health care. In 2018, CCHI received the “Get Wise” Consumer Protection award from the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA).