As the COVID-19 situation progresses, the virus’ impact on states varies wildly. In this week’s State Spotlight, we are looking at the ways the virus is impacting some states, and how these states are responding to the crisis.
On the west coast, Governor Gavin Newsom ordered Californians to stay home, becoming the first state to impose such a strict mandate. The shut-in order, which applies to the state’s 40 million residents, will remain in place “until further notice.” Under this mandate, residents are not permitted to leave home except for essential purposes, which include grocery shopping, healthcare visits and prescription pickups, as well as commutes to jobs still deemed essential. Although the state can charge any who disobey with a misdemeanor, the governor believes social pressure will do enough to keep the streets safe. California had 675 positive COVID-19 cases and 16 deaths as of Wednesday night, but the number is believed to be much higher due to limited testing. According to a statement from Governor Newsom’s office, if Californians don’t shut in now, 56% of the state, or 22 million people, could contract the virus.
Moving up to Washington State, the first state in the US to officially report a COVID-19 case, which is also looking for ways to minimize the virus’ impact on its residents. CMS has approved the Evergreen State’s 1135 waiver request, allowing Washington to curtail typical Medicaid requirements to free up resources during a national emergency. More specifically, the waiver: streamlines provider enrollment processes; allows care to be provided in alternative settings in unlicensed facilities if a licensed facility is evacuated; waives prior authorization requirements; suspends some nursing home screening requirements to provide necessary administrative relief; and extends deadlines for appeals and state fair hearing requests. Washington also requested that they be able to expand Medicaid to a greater number of uninsured, which CMS rejected.
Washington, however, is the second state to receive approval for their 1135 waiver, the first being Florida. There are now 520 confirmed cases and 10 deaths associated with COVID-19 in the Sunshine State, with test results pending for another 1,028 residents. South Florida, including the party destination of Miami, leads the state with the highest number of cases. Governor Ron DeSantis released a statement on Thursday saying that “the party’s over,” asking spring breakers to go home. Some of the most popular beaches in South Florida, including Miami Beach, are closed due to the virus.
Up in the northeast, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will sign an executive order mandating that 100% of New York’s workforce must stay home, excluding pharmacies, grocery stores, and any medical facilities. In New York City alone, the number of positive COVID-19 cases has climbed to a staggering 4,000. The governor has implemented several executive orders and moratoriums to provide relief for New Yorkers, including a 90-day pause on evictions as well as a halt on both medical debt and student loan debt collection. Additionally, the state unveiled its own hand sanitizer, “NYS Clean,” so that residents can stock up while private companies continue to sell out; media outlets were quick to point out that the sanitizer was made via prison labor, prompting some controversy.
In the midst of COVID-19, several states decided to create new SEPs. Colorado, Connecticut, Washington, Maryland, and Massachusetts announced that they are reopening their health insurance exchanges in an effort to boost coverage and expand treatment for the uninsured. Any state that operates its own health exchange has the authority to reopen enrollment without federal approval in the face of an emergency such as COVID-19. More states are expected to establish SEPs for COVID-19, but here are the dates for the currently known SEPs:
- Maryland’s enrollment window will run from March 16 through April 15.
- Massachusetts’ will run for 45 days from March 11 through April 25.
- Washington’s will run from March 10 through April 8.
- Connecticut’s will run from March 19 through April 2.
- Colorado’s will run from March 20 through April 3.