Due to Congress’ failure to respond, “Providers No Longer Able to Submit Claims for Testing, Treating, and Vaccinating the Uninsured: The fund that reimburses doctors and other medical providers for caring for uninsured individuals will start to be scaled back this month and end completely in early April.” – White House
As defensive measures for addressing the spread of COVID – 19 are being relaxed nationwide and locally, federal and state health policy leaders are closely watching for the arrival and intensity of new strains – and assessing how they are prepared for any resurgence of the epidemic.
But there are a series of deadlines looming regarding the funding of preventative measures and treatments which could jeopardize the ability of states to respond with the same intensity to coronavirus complications they have developed over the past two years.
Last week President Biden’s White House staff wrote in a letter to Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives:
“Providers No Longer Able to Submit Claims for Testing, Treating, and Vaccinating the Uninsured: The fund that reimburses doctors and other medical providers for caring for uninsured individuals will start to be scaled back this month and end completely in early April. Specifically, one week from today – March 22 — the Uninsured Program will stop accepting new claims for testing and treatment due to lack of sufficient funds. Providers will no longer be able to submit claims for providing these services to uninsured individuals, forcing providers to either absorb the cost or turn away people who are uninsured, increasing the disparity in access to critically needed health care and putting additional burdens on safety net providers. Three weeks from today — April 5 — the Uninsured Program will also stop accepting vaccination claims due to a lack of sufficient funds.”
Given the claim by the White House that as of this week providers would no longer be able to submit claims for the uninsured seeking testing and treatment, The Candle asked the New Mexico Department of Health (DOH) and the Human Services Department (HSD) if they had contacted providers in New Mexico regarding how to they would deal with the loss of reimbursements.
Katy Diffendorfer, Health Equity Communications Manager for DOH, emailed in response, “Not yet. We are waiting for further clarity as to the intent of Congress before notifications. We have the ability to notify providers immediately and will be ready to do so if needed.”
The Candle also asked if the state had set aside any of the federal funds received to date for dealing with an emergency similar to the one described in the White House letter.
The DOH spokesperson wrote, “Yes. At the present time we have more than enough treatments, tests, vaccines, and masks … We are allowed to use Federal funds to maintain a 60 day stockpile of tests, treatments, masks, and we have that supply on hand.”
Diffendorfer also provided an assessment of the department’s concerns and areas of vulnerability, “We remain short on hospital staff and the state continues to supply hundreds of HCQ to NM hospitals. With case counts being low, we have no immediate threats to the other resources, but we are still providing sheltering to COVID positive people who cannot isolate and some of this funding has been identified as being discontinued.”
According to DOH, the state has “been told that all FEMA reimbursements will decline on 7/1/2022 and so we are in the middle of a planning process to ensure that NM can continue to fight the pandemic without Federal aid effective 7/1/2022. That work also has informed our response to the recent letter mentioned here.”
When asked if the DOH and HSD has communicated with New Mexico’s Congressional Delegation regarding the issues raised by the White House letter, we were told, “Dr. Scrase has discussed with the Governor but we don’t have anything in writing.”
This is happening alongside reports that millions of Americans will be dropped from Medicaid healthcare coverage they acquired due to changes made in federal policy in response to the epidemic’s spread two years ago.
As reported in the Washington Post and the Santa Few New Mexican late last week, the change in federal Medicaid eligibility rules is expected to take place mid-summer and could result in millions of Americans, including more than 80,000 New Mexican residents, losing healthcare coverage.
The Candle also reached out to Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández and Senator Ben Ray Lujan last week seeking a response to the White House letter.
Neither has responded as of the posting of this story. We will update if The Candle receives a response.