Washington state asked the Trump administration on Sunday for deep changes to its Medicaid program to address the coronavirus epidemic, describing in stark terms the scale of the threat it faces from the spread of the disease.
It passed somewhat under the radar, but the request lays out in detail not only the resources the state wants to combat the coronavirus pandemic, but how severe the situation has gotten.
The description Gov. Jay Inslee provides as he pushes for the Trump administration to grant the emergency waiver is sobering.
“The virus does not respect geographical boundaries or distinguish between Federal and State authorities,” Inslee wrote. “The need for additional prompt action is clear.”
TPM reported last week that Washington state health officials were desperate for President Trump to declare an emergency, which would allow the states to request changes to their Medicaid programs to address the crisis.
Florida was the first state to receive approval for changes, after Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services gave the green light on Wednesday.
Washington says in the waiver application that its health-care system is undergoing “severe stress” in the areas of staffing, supplies, space, and equipment.
The state faces shortages in each, leading to longer ER wait times and forcing doctors and nurses to work overtime and take on additional shifts.
But the problem has been worsened by the fact that a “significant number of clinical care providers and support staff are currently quarantined.”
The state also faces issues with the supply of respirators and personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to prevent medical staff from contracting COVID-19.
Washington describes a “critical shortage,” saying that “regional and national stockpiles” of PPE won’t meet the state’s demand, in part due to reduced supply from China.
But supply shortages in the state extend further: without specifying, the state says that it is running low on some medications, and that its blood stocks are “critically low.”
The state also notes that it is running low on space to store more patients.
Washington’s experience sheds light on the details of what could soon happen in other COVID-19 hot spots around the country. Some health care providers in the state have already had their physical space “exceeded,” while some nursing homes won’t accept new patients without a negative COVID-19 test.
As of this writing, CMS has yet to approve the virus-stricken state’s request.
Read the request here here: