Florida rescinds COVID-19 Medicaid flexibilities

July marks the elimination of several Medicaid measures that provided flexibility during the COVID-19 pandemic. In June, the Agency for Health Care Administration posted a series of announcements detailing the reversal of policies that lifted authorization requirements and other barriers to care. 

 

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The agency reasoned the state is ready to return to pre-pandemic regulations. 

“The state of Florida led the national effort to distribute COVID-19 vaccines and now maintains a sufficient supply of COVID-19 vaccines for every eligible Floridian who desires to be vaccinated. The data demonstrates that Florida is positioned to transition to pre-pandemic activities.”

Changes include an April 2020 measure concerting supplemental wrap-around payment requests for federally qualified health centers. Requests will revert from a monthly timeline back to a quarterly timeline. The increased frequency of request fulfilments aided with cash flow during the pandemic, but was rescinded Thursday. 

One rollback includes provisional enrollment for Medicaid for in state and out of state providers, which allowed them to receive more reimbursements for health services. The availability of provisional enrollment was first made available in March 2020 to help address potential workforce shortages, but expired Thursday. 

Another rollback rescinds authorization waivers and reinstates service limits for behavioral health services, which were first put in place in May and June 2020. These measures allowed providers to make services more accessible for clients, such as implementing telehealth models of care. Time duration and frequency limits for behavioral services were reinstated Thursday, while authorization requirements for providers will return July 15.

Christine Cauffield, MD, director of behavioral health managing entity LSF Health Systems, says the state is still in the midst of a critical shortage of behavioral health professionals, particularly for those in the non-profit sector.

“Non-profit clinicians and professionals are being lured away by hospital systems, by the school systems, that are able to pay a higher salary, with perhaps better working conditions and hours. It’s really leaving the non-profit sector, in particular, with a dearth of professionals. It’s been very difficult for them to attract, recruit and retain their licensed clinicians, psychiatrists and other critical behavioral health care professionals because of this current situation.”

While a higher number of vaccinated Floridians means organizations can return to their pre-pandemic regulations, Cauffield argues that they should instead take the lessons learned from the last year and half and look for ways to make those changes more permanent. One example was the success of telehealth services, which allowed patients to receive access to care while saving on transportation, child care services, and other costs.

“Our clients readily embraced this new modality for those that had not had the opportunity to have a telehealth session prior, once they saw how convenient this protocol is and how it removed barriers that previously prevented them, perhaps, from accessing health care…I’m hopeful that this model will continue moving forward because so many of our clients now prefer to have telehealth sessions, rather than in person sessions.”