The pandemic has reinforced the importance of quality, affordable, and accessible health coverage and care in order to live a healthy life in general, but especially during a public health crisis. This is a particularly important issue for the Latino community: 18% of Latinos are uninsured compared to around 5% of non-Hispanic Whites, and uninsurance rates were on the rise for Latino children prior to the start of this pandemic. This means that Hispanics are at particular risk of falling ill and not obtaining the testing and treatment they need and deserve and which will be required to protect the public health of our nation. To put this health crisis behind us, we must:
Guarantee coverage of treatment for COVID-19.
All individuals should have ready access to coronavirus testing and treatment, including the uninsured and underinsured, regardless of immigration status, including DACA recipients and TPS holders. Congress should provide that treatment of COVID-19 is a mandatory benefit for all Medicaid beneficiaries and that COVID-19 and associated health problems must also be considered an “emergency medical condition” for the purposes of emergency Medicaid.
Remove Medicaid and CHIP eligibility barriers.
The five-year waiting period preventing legal permanent residents from accessing Medicaid/CHIP should be eliminated. Although most states have waived the waiting period for children (and some states have for pregnant women), Congress should remove this obstacle altogether given the urgency of the current crisis. Congress should also provide that all individuals granted federally authorized presence in the United States
(including DACA recipients) will be considered lawfully present for the purpose of federal health programs like Medicaid/CHIP. Lastly, Congress should require that states provide continuous 12- month eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP for beneficiaries and eliminate states’ option to impose waiting periods for
Provide further federal support for Medicaid.
Congress anticipated that increased reliance on Medicaid during the crisis could tax state budgets. In the Families First Act, Congress authorized a temporary 6.2% federal matching assistance percentage (FMAP) increase for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. Eighteen million Latinos relied on Medicaid even before the current pandemic, and the program's role will likely only increase in the coming months. Experts have predicted that the 6.2% increase will be insufficient to handle new enrollment. Congress should authorize an FMAP increase of 10% tied to economic indicators in a state that will sustain state Medicaid programs beyond the resolution of the immediate public health crisis. Congress should also provide that states, when expanding their Medicaid programs as provided for under the Affordable Care Act, will be eligible for the full, enhanced FMAP regardless of when the expansion takes place.
Increase investments in SNAP.
While the CARES Act includes additional funding for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) administration, it does not include needed investments to increase SNAP benefits and expand eligibility. Additional investments in SNAP, including a 15% boost to the maximum benefit and an increase in the minimum monthly SNAP benefit to $30, are needed. The five-year waiting period currently in place impacting the eligibility of lawful permanent resident adults should be eliminated, and investments in Disaster SNAP (D-SNAP) need to expand.