CNCounty News

Health legislation to focus on equity, social determinants of health

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Key Takeaways

Members of NACo’s Health Policy Steering Committee March 10 discussed health legislation and social determinants of health in this year’s policy priorities. 

One health priority focuses on enhancing counties’ abilities to improve health equity and address social and economic conditions that drive health outcomes. 

Committee members heard from Rep. Lauren Underwood (D- Ill.) who championed the Black Maternal Health “Momnibus” Act of 2021, a series of 12 bills, with Sen. Cory Booker (D- N.J.) 

The “Momnibus” Act would extend postpartum Medicaid coverage for moms, address environmental risks to maternal and infant health outcomes and provide grants to local public health departments to address social determinants of health in communities. 

Underwood told committee members during NACo’s Virtual Legislative Conference that the pandemic has shined a light on these racial and ethnic health disparities. 

“As we enact policies and implement strategies to end this pandemic, we also must take bold action to rebuild our healthcare system and public health infrastructure on a foundation of equity,” she said. 

Black moms are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related problems, Underwood said, stating the new legislation includes critical investments in funding community-based organizations, growing and diversifying the perinatal workforce and improving data collection. 

Underwood said the 12 bills in the Momnibus Act will save lives, end disparities and achieve maternal health equity.

Another NACo health priority focuses on protecting the Federal-State-Local Medicaid partnership. This priority opposes cost shift measures that would reduce federal support that would flow to counties and focuses on protecting flexibilities that allow counties to finance the non-federal share of the program and increase fiscal support during economic downturns. 

Sen. Bob Casey (D- Pa.) and Rep. Susie Lee (D- Nev.) recently reintroduced the Coronavirus Medicaid Response Act. The bill would tie federal increases of Medicaid to state economic trends and require increases be sub-allocated to counties that contribute to the non-fiscal share of Medicaid. 

In a message to the committee, Casey highlighted how Medicaid supports 70 million Americans with even more people turning to coverage since the pandemic.

“Medicaid isn’t just some program,” he said. “Medicaid tells us who we are and whom we value, whether it’s children or working families or individuals with disabilities or seniors in nursing homes.” 

He said this legislation will create a more responsive process for supporting state Medicaid programs and tie federal Medicaid increases to state unemployment rates. When unemployment goes up, the need for Medicaid is more pronounced, he said. 

The bill will also help states and counties plan their budgets and keep individuals covered as well as prevent cuts to provider reimbursements during economic downturns. 

“We’re Americans,” he said. “We care about one another… and Medicaid helps us care for those who are vulnerable.”

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