CMS Expands List of Telehealth Services that Medicare will Cover during Pandemic

On Oct. 14, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) expanded the list of telehealth services that Medicare Fee-for-Service will pay for during the Public Health Emergency. CMS is also providing additional support to state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program agencies to expand further access to telehealth. CMS also released a new data snapshot on telehealth utilization in Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) during the Public Health Emergency. It shows that there have been more than 34.5 million services delivered via telehealth to Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries between March and June this year, representing an increase of more than 2,600% when compared to same period in the prior year. The data also showed that adults received the most services delivered by telehealth.

CMS and ACF Issue Joint Guidance on Support for Family-Focused Residential Treatment

Earlier this month, CMS and the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) jointly released an information bulletin that identifies existing opportunities and flexibilities for Title IV-E programs and Medicaid to support family-focused residential treatment. It addresses how states can coordinate efforts between these programs to support families.

Source: American Public Human Services Association

Informing Grandfamilies Act Introduced

U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Ranking Member of the Special Committee on Aging, and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced the Informing Grandfamilies Act, which will provide grandparents with assistance in identifying resources and support to raise their grandchildren when parents are unable. The bill will require states to proactively contact caregivers participating in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and provide them with information on additional supports, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Medicaid. In the US, 2.7 million children  are raised by their grandparents or other caregivers – and this number has likely gone up during the COVID-19 pandemic. If passed, the bill will bring grandparents a step closer to accessing resources they need to care for their grandchildren.

HUD Announces New Support for Youth Aging out of Foster Care

On Oct. 6, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) lifted restrictions on Public Housing Authorities (PHA), which will allow them to engage youth aging out of foster care. Before, some PHAs were not allowed to apply for the Foster Youth to Independence (FYI) program, which provides basic life skills, counselling, job preparation and education guidance, as well as housing support. Now, these PHAs will be able to apply to the FYI program. $10 million will be made available for this purpose.

USDA Extends Free Meals for Kids for Entire School Year

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) extended flexibilities that will allow free school meal programs to continue until June 30, 2021. The USDA had initially extended the deadline to Dec. 2020. Now, children will have access to the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO), which operate 90,000 sites nationally, for the entire school year. These extended flexibilities include:

  • SFSP and SSO meals to be served in all areas and at no cost
  • Meals to be served outside of the typically required group settings and mealtimes
  • Waived meal pattern requirements, as necessary
  • Allow parents and guardians to pick-up meals for their children

Drastic Decline in Care for Children Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

The CMS released preliminary Medicaid and CHIP data showing that rates for vaccinations, primary, and preventive services among children have steeply declined during the COVID-19 pandemic. These programs cover 40 million children, with three quarters living in poverty. Vaccinations, child screening services, and dental services decreased by 22%, 44% and 69%, respectively, from 2019. While telehealth services increased significantly during the pandemic, the increase was not enough to close the gap. Without early detection of autism and other developmental delays, as well as screenings for physical and cognitive development, child growth will be hampered for years to come, CMS says. 

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