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Health and Human Services Commission Says Focus Is on Continuous Coverage Wind-Down

The agency has been deliberating ending the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and will need to address all aspects, including data and IT needs.

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At the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), the top priority is workforce, staffing and retention across the state; meanwhile, the commission has also put in multiple 2023-2025 biennial budget requests for exceptional items relating to IT needs and new systems.

One exceptional request is for monies to address the federal 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act and an end to COVID-19 continuous Medicaid coverage as the feds declare the end of the public health emergency.

For reference, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) in March 2020 gave additional allocations for social services programs including Medicaid, and recipients were guaranteed coverage without disenrollment. The act gave a 6.2 percent Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) increase, which ends on Dec. 31.

But in the “omnibus spending bill, Congress ended the requirement for continuous coverage effective March 31,” Executive Commissioner Cecile Erwin Young said in February testimony to the House Appropriations Article II Subcommittee. “Now HHSC will have to redetermine the eligibility of up to 5.9 million Texans currently enrolled in Medicaid.”

She said they are “working on several fronts” to manage this.

Exceptional item five for FY 2024-2025 is titled “Supporting the End of Continuous Coverage.” It is a 14-month wind-down with a “phase-down approach,” agency CFO Trey Wood told the subcommittee.

The request is for $48 million in general funds and an all-funds total of $143 million.

It includes staffing costs, 211 Texas Information and Referral Network (TIRN) support, the Texas Integrated Eligibility Redesign System (TIERS) learning environment, the eligibility workload management system and lobby kiosks.

This includes data management, since IT systems are essential to tracking enrollees and managing reporting, among other requirements. According to a January report, there is also a public awareness campaign including text messaging and social media messaging to Medicaid members.

“It’s fairly unprecedented; we’ve never done anything of this size or scope within that time frame before, so it’s something that’s going to take the bulk of the agency’s focus over the next two years,” Wood said.

The commission, according to its documentation:
  • Provides oversight and administrative support for Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies.
  • Administers CHIP and Medicaid; women’s health, behavioral health and other programming.
  • Provides long-term support for people with disabilities and people age 60 or older.
  • Operates the state’s mental health hospitals and state-supported living centers.
  • Regulates health-care providers, professions and facilities.
  • Sets policy, defines benefits coverage and determines who is eligible for coverage.
  • Employs about 37,000 employees across the state.
Rae D. DeShong is a Dallas-based e.Republic staff writer and has worked at The Dallas Morning News and as a community college administrator.