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Health agency gives Florida Medicaid flexibility responding to coronavirus

Removing some administrative requirements would enable the state to focus resources on battling COVID-19

The Trump administration approved the first state Medicaid waiver to expand flexibility under the program in response to the COVID-19 national emergency.

The approved waiver will allow Florida to provide care in alternate settings, remove some prior-authorization requirements before people can get care, extend certain deadlines and streamline enrollment processes for medical providers to participate in Medicaid. It also would temporarily suspend certain pre-admission and annual screenings for nursing home residents.

[Trump wants checks sent directly to Americans as part of coronavirus response]

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that Florida was the first state to submit a so-called Section 1135 waiver request after President Donald Trump officially declared a national emergency due to the coronavirus-based illness known as COVID-19.

Removing some of these administrative requirements would enable the state to focus resources on battling the outbreak, said Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

[Revised coronavirus aid bill headed to Senate, finally]

“Florida is acutely focused on eliminating unnecessary barriers on our health care providers who are on the front lines serving our communities most impacted by COVID-19,” said DeSantis. “President Trump recognizes this need, and [CMS] Administrator Seema Verma is providing Florida the critical flexibility for our state’s Medicaid program by waiving prior-authorization requirements for essential health care services and expedited provider enrollment.”

CMS expects additional states will follow with similar waiver requests.

Verma said in a statement that the agency is “committed to removing all unnecessary administrative and bureaucratic barriers that may hinder an effective response to this public health emergency” and said CMS will work to “expeditiously process these requests.”

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Public response to virus

The move comes as about two-thirds of U.S. residents say they are taking action to protect themselves from the pandemic, according to a new poll released Tuesday.

While most individuals are taking some precautions to protect against the spread of COVID-19, the effects are not uniform.

The poll from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that about 40 percent of individuals reported changing travel plans or canceling plans to attend a large gathering. And 35 percent of individuals separately reported stocking up on food, while about 25 percent of individuals are staying home from work or school.

But some are not heeding the warnings and guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal or state agencies.

Pictures surfaced Monday of crowded Floridian beaches, despite people being advised to practice social distancing and limit interaction with others. Similar instances of recent crowded gatherings have been documented in states including Tennessee, Oklahoma and New York.

The Kaiser poll found that Americans who are most vulnerable to developing complications from COVID-19 are not more likely to be taking precautions or preparations than the general adult population.

Seniors and those with chronic conditions are most at risk.

About six in 10 worry that they or a member of their family will become ill because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Approximately one-third of those surveyed said they do not get paid sick leave from work, and about half are not eligible for time off for family or medical leave.

The Kaiser poll was conducted March 11-15 by phone and sampled 1,216 individuals nationwide. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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