Pandemic changes, or pauses, state approaches to health coverage

About Joanne Kenen

Contributing editor to Politico Magazine and former health care editor-at-large, Politico, Commonwealth Fund journalist in residence and assistant lecturer at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Photo: Yuri Samoilov via Flickr

Before the new coronavirus pandemic, expanding health insurance was a hot topic in the presidential campaign. States were considering a wide range of health coverage policies, including Medicaid expansion, Medicaid block grants, public options, new subsidies and coverage of immigrants.

Much of the state policymaking has been on hold or is phasing in more slowly as the nation’s health system focuses on COVID-19. States are facing enormous financial stresses due both to the pandemic and the subseqent economic crisis.

Of course, the massive job losses have also created millions of newly uninsured people, some of whom will fall into the Medicaid gap and have no coverage options and some of whom will have trouble affording other options. So the pressure for solutions isn’t going away, and it’s unclear how the pandemic will change public expectations or openness to various potential solutions.

Reporter Dan Goldberg, who specializes in state health policy for POLITICO, has prepared an AHCJ tip sheet summing up some of the developments in the states.

This is a good time for reporters to check in with governor’s offices, state legislators, the state hospital association and advocacy groups to see what potential solutions in your states are being shelved – and which, if any, are emerging. As always, useful state policy resources include:

  • The Kaiser Family Foundation’s State Health Facts
  • The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s State Network
  • The Commonwealth Fund’s State Health tracker
  • The National Academy of State Health Policy: NASHP’s annual meeting in August will be virtual this year. It’s open to reporters, so those who normally couldn’t travel to a NASHP conference or have time to attend all presentations can drop in on sessions relevant to your beat or state.

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