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Given the seriousness of the COVID-19 epidemic and evidence that low-income seniors of color are in greater danger due to systems of racism, we are actively engaging with policymakers at every level to ensure their responses are prioritizing those at greatest risk of illness and death. 

Here’s what we’re watching in Washington:

Oklahomans Vote to Expand Medicaid 

On Tuesday, Oklahomans voted in favor of an amendment to their state constitution to fully expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act to all adults under age 65 with incomes up to 138% FPL. Under the amendment, the state is required to start providing coverage to the expansion population no later than July 1, 2021. It’s estimated that at least 200,000 people will be newly eligible for Medicaid, not accounting for everyone who may become eligible due to COVID-19 related income and job loss. 

The amendment also prevents the state from implementing harmful eligibility and coverage restrictions, such as those included in the state’s 1115 waiver application pending with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Last week, Justice in Aging submitted comments asking CMS to reject the waiver, which requests permission to impose work reporting requirements and premiums, eliminate retroactive coverage, implement a per capita cap on federal funding, and make other harmful cuts to coverage for the expansion population and other adults who do not qualify for Medicaid on the basis of age or disability.    

HHS Office for Civil Rights Resolves Complaint Alleging Discrimination in Tennessee’s Crisis Standards of Care 

Last Friday, the U.S Department of Health & Human Services Office for Civil Rights (HHS-OCR) announced that it resolved a complaint against Tennessee after the state updated its crisis standards of care (CSC) plan to remove criteria that discriminated against persons based on disability or age. The resolution stems from a complaint filed by Disability Rights Tennessee and other advocacy organizations alleging that Tennessee’s CSC plan discriminated based on disability by, among other things, unlawfully disqualifying individuals with advanced neuromuscular disease, metastatic cancer, traumatic brain injury, dementia, and other disabilities from using a ventilator in times of scarcity.

HHS-OCR had previously reached resolutions with Alabama, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania in response to complaints regarding disability discrimination in CSC plans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CMS Announces End to Waiver of Requirement that Nursing Homes Report Staffing Data 

Last week, CMS announced that it is ending the blanket emergency waiver of the requirement for nursing homes to submit staffing data through the Payroll-Based Journal System. According to the memorandum, the waiver ends immediately and nursing homes must submit data for April through June by August 14, 2020.

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Stay up-to-date on Justice in Aging’s COVID-19 Resources for Advocates Serving Older Adults webpage.

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Justice in Aging
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