What We're Reading: Medicaid Block Grants; Help Containing the Coronavirus; Aid-in-Dying Laws

January 29, 2020

HHS will announce its Medicaid fixed-payment block grant proposal on Thursday; the United States reiterates its offer to send a team to China to help with the coronavirus outbreak; Maryland legislators renew their fight over medically assisted suicide.

Medicaid Block Grant Stirs Controversy

In another move meant to provide states with greater control over Medicaid, on Thursday, HHS will detail its block grant proposal, according to The Washington Post. This fixed-payment model would replace the somewhat fluid percentage model currently in place that the government uses to provide funds for the states to cover anyone who is eligible, as well as allows states the choice to opt out of many of Medicaid’s rules. The block grant proposal accentuates the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act—36 states have expanded Medicaid coverage since 2014—and has been a main goal of CMS Administrator Seema Verma for years. Healthcare organizations worry the capped funding will cut off care to their most vulnerable patients. Expect a forthcoming legal battle from proponents and critics alike.

US Re-extends Offer to China to Help With the Coronavirus Outbreak

Urging cooperation and assistance, HHS Secretary Alex Azar is calling on China to respond to the United States’ second offer to send a healthcare team to help with the coronavirus outbreak, STAT News reports. A team from the World Health Organization has already been invited by Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Azar hopes CDC personnel will be included. So far, there are 4500 reported cases in China alone, and the epidemic has now spread to at least 14 additional countries and territories. In the United States, 110 people are being monitored for the deadly respiratory illness.

Maryland’s State Legislators Renew Their Debate on Medically Assisted Suicide

Amid claims that the rights of terminally ill patients are being ignored, lawmakers in Maryland have renewed their push for the state to permit medically assisted suicide, reports The Washington Post, an attempt that has failed for 4 years straight. A similar bill failed to pass by 1 vote last year, with a sticking point being the possibility of patients being coerced into ending their lives. Washington, DC, and 9 states currently permit the controversial practice, which faces staunch opposition from the Catholic Church and disability rights activists. Last year, in Colorado, a Christian hospital fired one of its doctors, who ignored a directive to not follow the state’s End of Life Options Act.