Last week the Executive Directors of the Indiana Community Action Association (INCAA) and Covering Kids and Families of Indiana (CKF-IN) wrote a letter to Governor Holcomb and FSSA Secretary Sullivan to asking the state to make a proactive investment in helping to financial support health care navigation services in Indiana during this crisis.
Hoosiers need healthcare coverage to get healthy and stay healthy throughout this crisis and beyond. Although Congress made testing and treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19) free for all who need it, regular access to healthcare mitigates many of the risk factors associated with the current pandemic and also insulates against future health concerns and other outbreaks. At the same time, while we are experiencing limited non-emergency access to care due to COVID-19, those with coverage can still access primary health, mental health, and preventative care through telemedicine services and other options. Those without coverage find their options to be much more limited and, in some cases, effectively non-existent. In short, coverage matters.
Prior to the current crisis, approximately 545,000 Hoosiers lacked healthcare coverage – about one in twelve. Unfortunately, the fallout from this pandemic is adding significantly to the rolls of uninsured Hoosiers. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that over 200,000 of the jobs lost so far in Indiana were jobs that provided employer-sponsored health coverage. We need health care coverage navigators – individuals who are trained to provide free, unbiased assistance to Hoosiers as they explore their options and apply for coverage. It is critical to get these newly uninsured Hoosiers linked with coverage as soon as possible.
Agencies that provide navigation services through the Covering Kids & Families program are grappling to raise local dollars to support this work. With so much need, there is simply not enough local funding available to meet every need and while federal relief dollars are coming in, it is not allowable to use those funds for match. The good news is that the state can play a role in providing the funds.
An investment of just $1 million in state resources would keep CKF navigators working throughout Indiana for the rest of the year. Indiana could fund this by potentially tapping into the rainy-day fund or other available State funding reserves. Organizations that provide navigator services – including Community Action Agencies – want to increase their reach and availability to meet the needs of our struggling Hoosiers, most importantly those who are newly uninsured and have no experience or knowledge of accessing public health coverage. Most Hoosiers would agree that the middle of a public health crisis is the worst possible moment to reduce or lose trained health care coverage navigators who live and work in the hardest hit communities. It is well documented that the cost of Hoosiers living without healthcare coverage will lead to more financially and physically costly outcomes.
Indiana should invest now in the established infrastructure to aid Hoosiers through this crisis and to emerge a stronger, healthier and even more resilient Indiana.
Other recommended policies:
- Allow virtual signatures allowing for navigators to become authorized representative for the purpose of aiding Hoosiers in attaining healthcare coverage.
- Implement continuous eligibility for all Indiana Health Coverage Programs, inclusive of Medicaid, HIP, CHIP and Hoosier Healthwise, for one year either beginning April 1, 2020 or their initial date of coverage, whichever is later.
- Provide blanket approval, with provider credentials, for all eligible sites to operate as Presumptive Eligibility Qualified Providers.
- Provide support and training so uninsured Hoosiers can access the presumptive eligibility process in nontraditional sites, providing more paths to an immediate level of coverage. Consider authorizing community agencies, such as Community Action Programs, to act as Presumptive Eligibility Qualified Providers in order to further expand access to immediate coverage.
- Call on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to open a Marketplace Special Enrollment Period from April 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020. A Special Enrollment Period would afford Hoosiers access to comprehensive health coverage that they may not have already. Additionally, request enhanced Marketplace subsidies to mitigate premium payments and lessen the up-front financial burden of coverage.
For more than 50 years, Community Action Agencies have served families in Indiana who need help from their communities. Year after year, and particularly in times of crisis these agencies provide a myriad of services to low-income families including head start, weatherization, energy assistance, and health care coverage support services.
For over 20 years Covering Kids and Families of Indiana has helped Hoosiers apply for and understand healthcare coverage such as the Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP), Hoosier Healthwise, Medicaid and Marketplace plans. This is accomplished through a network of Certified Indiana Navigators employed through partner organizations across the state. Represented among these partner organizations are Federally Qualified Health Centers, Area Agencies on Aging and 10 Community Action Programs.