Biden Team Urges States Pay Low-Income People to Get Shots
(Bloomberg) -- The Biden administration is encouraging states to offer gift cards or similar incentives to low-income people on Medicaid who get the Covid-19 vaccine, in a bid to boost inoculation rates that trail the broader public.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued new guidance Monday to state Medicaid directors, offering federal funding and other assistance to boost vaccination rates among people covered by the health plan. There’s been confusion about whether federal funding can support vaccination efforts in the program, an official familiar with the matter said.
Measures encouraged in the guidance include funding “incentives,” such as gift cards, to Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program recipients who get a shot. They also include increasing reimbursement rates for health providers who administer shots and financial incentives for Medicaid plans that meet vaccination milestones.
Federal data show that vaccination rates among Medicaid recipients widely lag the overall population. For example, in Florida, an estimated 34% of Medicaid recipients have at least one shot, compared to 68% of eligible people statewide. In Louisiana, 26% of Medicaid recipients are vaccinated, less than half the statewide rate.
States have asked for federal support for incentive programs, an official said. Medicaid would generally fund about half of such programs, including administrative costs. The moves overall are meant to clarify for states what flexibility they have, and make clear when federal funding is available, the official said.
“Today’s guidance reinforces our commitment to providing low-income adults and children with access to Covid-19 testing and vaccination, and I urge all eligible enrollees to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their families,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in a written statement.
States are also eligible for reimbursement to give paid time off to home health workers and other professionals serving Medicaid recipients to get shots. Some health workers have said one barrier to getting vaccinated is that they’d lose paid work hours, the official said.
CMS also reiterated that Medicaid covers diagnostic and screening testing for Covid-19 in schools, so long as the testing is “consistent” with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Federal matching funds are available for publicity campaigns encouraging vaccination. CMS is also encouraging states to include information on Covid-19 vaccines for adolescents as part of its national Back to School campaign -- the shots are currently authorized for children 12 and up.
About 61.6% of eligible people in the U.S. have received at least one vaccine dose, according to CDC data.
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