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1. Update on Medi-Cal RFP timeline
During a webinar related to the recently released Medi-Cal managed care RFI, DHCS announced an updated procurement timeline. The agency says the state will likely release the draft RFP in early 2021, with the final RFP expected to be released at the end of 2021. Proposals are scheduled to be due either in late 2021 or early 2022, with an implementation target of January 2024.
During a separate webinar, DHCS said it planned to submit its Section 1115 waiver 12-month extension proposal to CMS by September 15. The extension request will soon be posted at Medicaid.gov for a 30-day federal public comment period.
2. CMS drops MFAR rule
CMS Administrator Seema Verma announced this week that the agency is officially dropping the controversial Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Regulation (MFAR) rule. The proposed rule, which was announced in November, would have altered the way states were able to finance their share of Medicaid, specifically targeting provider taxes and inter-governmental transfers (IGTs). This would have hit California particularly hard.
The rule faced opposition from a broad range of stakeholders and state leaders across California and the rest of the country. DHCS previously described the rule as “significantly flawed and would have devastating impacts on State programs and budgets.” One health policy insider told State of Reform in February that the financial impact to California could have started at $25 billion.
3. Two interviews worth reflecting on
I got a chance for an extended interview this week with US Sen. Mitt Romney. He provided insight into how Mitch McConnell holds the caucus together, what gives him hope in America today, and what he thinks health policy will look like in either a Trump or Biden administration. He identified the three transcendent issues he thinks are critical for America to address: China’s emergence as a superpower, the national debt, and climate change.
Also worth a note is the passing this week of Bill Gates Sr, a giant in the civic engagement space. I had the opportunity to interview him back in 2005 for a low budget public access show I hosted with perhaps three loyal viewers. He gave one of the best answers I’ve ever gotten in a career of over 300 interviews of senior civic leaders.
I asked “When they write the history of this time in Puget Sound (where he lived), not the nation or the world, where you’ll certainly be noted, but for Puget Sound, what would you like them to say about you?”
His answer: “I’m not sure what to say about that.” He looked down at his hands, clasped. He choked up a bit. “I suppose that he was a good father.”
4. CMA delivers $80 million in PPE donations
The California Medical Association and the California Office of Emergency Services announced they had distributed over $80 million in personal protective equipment (PPE) to almost 15,000 practices in California during a three-week time span. Forty million pieces of PPE were distributed including 6.5 million N95 respirators, 15 million examination gloves, 15 million surgical masks, 1.5 million face shields, and 1.4 million isolation gowns.
Reporter Emily Boerger spoke with several recipients of the PPE donations about the value of the equipment and the impact it has had on physicians, patients, and practices. “I think knowing that we’re supported from so many different people and different organizations including the CMA really gives us a sense of relief,” said Dr. Hannah Robinson with Pacific Inpatient Physicians. “It means a lot – not just practically but also psychologically and emotionally that we have that support.”
5. Health disparities and COVID
For the first time in its 20-year history, researchers released early, preliminary data from UCLA’s California Health Interview Survey. The data dashboard – which allows users to filter information by race and ethnicity, income level, and geographic region – reveals COVID-related health disparities in California related to job loss and financial difficulties.
In an effort to address some of the inequalities made evident by the pandemic, three California Congresswomen introduced a bill last week aimed at preventing and responding to COVID-19 in medically underserved communities. The bill would provide $8.4 billion in grants to be used for testing, contact tracing, PPE, and the creation of a multilingual, culturally diverse social marketing campaign to inform community members about health precautions and assistance programs.