Good news in public policy may seem like an oxymoron to long-time providers, but the recently-published House of Representatives’ summary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009 (ARRA) www.house.gov spells relief for many individuals and behavioral health organizations.
The bill allows for temporary 65% subsidies for COBRA premiums for laid-off workers and also provides, under certain circumstances, that COBRA-eligible workers 55 and older could retain COBRA coverage until they become Medicare eligible. Additionally, states would be given a temporary option to provide unemployed persons and their families benefits through the Medicaid program.
Medicaid providers would receive relief with a FMAP (federal Medicaid assistance percentage) increase of 4.9%. (The Senate version raises that amount to 5.6%.) States with high unemployment rates would receive an additional increase in FMAP. Long story short, our Medicaid match expense would go down.
A moratorium on six of the more onerous Medicaid regulations would be extended to June 30, 2009. This would include the intergovernmental transfer (IGT) rules that have the potential of paralyzing providers in many states.
New initiatives in health information technology round out the package.
If ARRA is the harbinger of a new era in healthcare, then perhaps there is some sunshine peeking through the gloom of the current economy. For the sake of the people we serve, let’s hope so.