At Last, Trump Admin Grants First Emergency Medicaid Change Due To COVID

03 February 2020, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Backnang: A ventilator is placed next to a cot. Photo: Sebastian Gollnow/dpa (Photo by Sebastian Gollnow/picture alliance via Getty Images)
March 17, 2020 1:50 p.m.
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Weeks into the coronavirus pandemic, the first U.S. state received approval from the Trump administration for an emergency change to its Medicaid program.

Florida received a waiver from Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services on Tuesday, and was the first state to do so.

The change — known in Medicaid-speak as a section 1135 waiver — was only possible pursuant to an emergency declaration from President Trump, issued on Friday.

States and health-care organizations spent the past few weeks clamoring for the declaration, saying it would be needed to address the crisis.

A Washington state health official told TPM last week, before the declaration was issued, that the virus-stricken state needed the waiver to alleviate overcrowding at its hospitals.

Florida’s waiver appears to be partly aimed at helping its large population of elderly retirees, who are particularly susceptible to serious complications from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The state’s Medicaid program will now allow more people to check into nursing homes, and ease the process by which Florida officials can offer government-backed care in new locations, should existing hospitals have to be evacuated.

The waiver will also remove requirements in place that made it more difficult for people and health-care providers to enroll in the state’s Medicaid program.

Though Florida is the first state to receive approval for an emergency change to its Medicaid program, dozens of other states are expected to apply for the shifts.

It’s not clear exactly when Florida applied for the waiver. A CMS press release said that the state asked for the changes “shortly after” President Trump’s Friday emergency declaration.

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