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Behind the Bar | Health Care | Legislature

Lawmakers plan for enhanced federal Medicaid dollars to last through 2021

Environmental services aid Charlie Fletcher pushes a gurney at UMC Trauma Center on Thursday, July 20, 2017. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Lawmakers are moving forward with the budgeting process as if an enhanced federal matching rate for Medicaid will remain in place through the end of the calendar year, a move that could save the state about $60 million in general fund dollars.

Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, during a budget subcommittee meeting on Thursday, suggested that lawmakers plan for the extra federal health care funding to exist for an additional six months beyond the current date it is set to expire, June 30. Her recommendation comes as the federal government has indicated that the current public health emergency will “likely” extend through the end of the calendar year, which would, in turn, mean that the enhanced federal matching dollars would be available through March 2022.

Carlton, however, said she felt more confident planning for a December expiration date than a March one.

“I would love to say we could go to March 30, 2022, but I don’t think that would be responsible on my part,” Carlton said. “Boy, I would love to put that on the sheets, but knowing that we’d have to deal with the consequences if we did, I would be very comfortable with a December 31 date.”

Medicaid administrator Suzanne Bierman said that her program had reached out to Medicaid programs in other states to ask how they were planning for the federal matching rate extension. Of the 10 states that answered Nevada’s request, one only budgeted through the second quarter of the calendar year, another budgeted through the third quarter and the remaining eight budgeted for the full calendar year.

Legislative staff said that Medicaid has yet to calculate the fiscal impact of budgeting for the extra federal dollars, though rough projections estimate the move will save the state about $30 million a quarter in general funds — in other words, $60 million over the second half of 2021.

The public health emergency is currently set to expire on April 20, though it is expected to be renewed before the Tuesday deadline. The Biden administration has told states it will provide 60 days’ notice before ending the public health emergency.

That’s important because the enhanced federal matching rate is tied directly to the public health emergency — and will expire at the end of the quarter in which the public health emergency is ended.

If the public health emergency continues to be extended in 90-day intervals through the end of the year, as the federal government has said, it will expire on Jan. 16, 2022. That means the enhanced federal matching rate would continue through March 2022.

Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in Behind the Bar, The Nevada Independent’s newsletter dedicated to comprehensive coverage of the 2021 Legislature. Sign up for the newsletter here.

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