FILE: MEDICAID

Medicaid provides healthcare for eligible low-income adults and is a program that utilizes both state and federal funds. 

(The Center Square) — The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and National Academy for State Health Policy recently recognized North Carolina's Medicaid program for innovating to improve services during the pandemic.

A panel of expert advisors selected North Carolina for the 2022 Medicaid Innovation Award in recognition of initiatives that demonstrate innovative and unique approaches to improving the health and lives of Medicaid enrollees.

The award, intended to recognize states for innovating to improve services amid challenges from the pandemic, was presented at the NASHP's annual conference in Seattle last week.

North Carolina's award centered on its work improving access to care during the pandemic, which included development of a maternal/perinatal telehealth policy that provided telehealth and home visits to patients; reimbursement to perinatal providers for remote blood pressure monitoring, physiological monitoring and lactation services; and postpartum depression screenings by video, phone and online portal messaging, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

"The COVID-19 public health emergency challenged our teams to look at innovative ways to continue to provide important care to our beneficiaries," said Deputy Secretary for NC Medicaid Dave Richard. "Our focus, as a state, on maternal health and improving the outcomes of pregnant women and their children has intensified in recent years. Through our response to COVID-19 we were able to fast-track innovative ways we can care for patients across the state."

Tara Oakman, interim managing director at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, applauded states that took advantage of Medicaid flexibilities to put patients first.

"Medicaid enables states to develop tailored, creative solutions to local challenges, and when faced with an unprecedented pandemic, Medicaid leaders dug deep to develop innovative approaches to care," Oakman said. "While it remains a difficult period for Medicaid programs, all states can learn from successes in other states in improving Medicaid access, care delivery and equity."

The award came just days before the North Carolina Healthcare Association proposed a deal to leaders in the General Assembly and Gov. Roy Cooper to expand Medicaid in North Carolina. The Senate approved legislation last session to expand Medicaid to roughly 600,000 new adult enrollees, but the House did not approve the measure and instead opted to study the move further.

The NCHA proposal would require the state's health systems and hospitals to fund the majority of the Medicaid expansion at an estimated cost of $550 million per year. The NCHA contends that's on top of about $700 million health care organizations could lose from reforming certificate of need laws on ambulatory surgery centers.

The proposal calls for lawmakers to repeal certificate of need laws for psychiatric inpatient beds and chemical dependency beds, as well.

Those changes and hospital financing for the expansion would hinge on lawmakers approving a Healthcare Access and Stabilization Program through the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services along with the expansion.

North Carolina stands to gain up to $1.8 billion in federal funds if lawmakers approve expansion soon.

The General Assembly convened today for a three-day administrative session with no planned floor votes, and are next expected to return to Raleigh in October.