Extend Coverage to Children to “Avoid Devastating Impacts,” Medicine Tells State
By David Doolittle

Burgess

Texas should ensure that children continue to have access to health care during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, a coalition of health organizations told state officials this week. 

In a letter to the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), the Children’s Health Coverage Coalition encouraged the commission to extend several programs and initiatives while also continuing to help practices that are struggling financially because of decreased patient visits. 

“If physicians who care for children are not able to serve children during this time, this means immunizations are missed, safety information is not shared, developmental concerns go undetected, and referrals to ECI (early childhood intervention) services to address disabilities and delays don’t occur,” the letter said. “Missed services can have devastating impacts on a child’s health, growth, and long-term development.” 

The coalition, of which the Texas Medical Association is a member, urged HHSC to ensure children have access to health care, get and keep kids enrolled in coverage, and provide accurate information to families on health services. 

Specifically, the coalition’s requests include: 

  • Suspending copayments and enrollment fees for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) another six months. HHSC already waived office visit copayments for all CHIP members for services, including via telemedicine or telehealth, provided from March 13 to May 31;
  • Extend the temporary amendment to Medicaid policy that allows Texas Health Steps visits via telemedicine for children over 24 months of age another six months. The coalition also called on HHSC for retroactive payments for qualifying visits by six months;
  • Provide clear guidance to Medicaid managed care organizations to explore programs that provide for physicians’ immediate financial security, such as advanced payments; risk-adjusted, prospective payment plans; and retainer fees;
  • Suspend CHIP six-month income verifications for households at 185% of the federal poverty level or higher beyond the federal emergency declaration;
  • Suspend Medicaid income verifications beyond the federal emergency declaration;
  • Suspend the 90-day waiting period for children applying for or enrolled in CHIP;
  • Stress the importance of well-child checks in public service announcements related to COVID-19; and
  • Provide a clear message to families that their benefits are extended until further notice due to the pandemic. 

TMA has been advocating for changes to Medicaid and CHIP throughout the pandemic to help pediatricians and family medicine practices. 

Earlier this month, TMA President Diana Fite, MD, and Tammy Camp, MD, president of the Texas Pediatric Society, sent a letter asking HHSC Acting Executive Commissioner Phil Wilson to approve prospective or retainer payments to pediatricians in Medicaid and CHIP, and to pursue federal funds to increase Medicaid physician payment rates to Medicare parity. The letter echoed an April 13 letter from TMA and 29 specialty societies asking Gov. Greg Abbott to implement a “multi-point plan to promote accountable care and enhance physician practice viability.” 

As always, check the TMA COVID-19 Resource Center regularly for up-to-date news and the latest TMA materials for your practice.

Last Updated On

May 15, 2020

Originally Published On

May 15, 2020

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David Doolittle

Editor

(512) 370-1385

Dave Doolittle is editor of Texas Medicine and Texas Medicine Today. Dave grew up in Austin, where he attended culinary school as well as the University of Texas. He spent years covering Central Texas for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper. He is the father of two girls, a proud Longhorn, and an avid motorsports fan.

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