Governor Cooper pushes for key federal changes to make food, healthcare more accessible


A rendering of coronavirus via the CDC.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCT) Governor Roy Cooper has written to President Donald Trump to ask for key waivers that will allow North Carolina to adapt federal food and healthcare programs to better serve North Carolinians in the COVID-19 crisis.

Governor Cooper says, “We need to get food to children who are now not in school and these waivers will help. They also will help healthcare providers who need to concentrate on patients, not paperwork.”

Food Insecurity Waivers

Governor Cooper has asked for waivers so children and their families who are food insecure can access resources for meals. Waiver request includes:

  • Allowing people to buy hot, prepared meals with their NC Food and Nutrition Services benefits (FNS, also known as SNAP) if they are purchased in authorized retail food stores;
  • Ensuring that the supplemental FNS benefit for families with at least one eligible school-age child is provided and that children who depend on meals at schools can still have access to food during the school closure; 
  • Allowing flexibility in the activation of a Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) like the one operated in response to natural disasters for all 100 counties and added flexibility to the program to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines to prevent exposure;
  • Extending recertification periods for all active FNS households for March and April benefits to eliminate the risk of reduction or interruption of food benefits due to late recertifications;
  • Allowing benefits for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to be more flexible in case of food shortages and to facilitate remote WIC services;
  • Flexibilities within the School Nutrition Programs to serve all children in economically-disadvantaged communities and maintain flexibility around food items; 
  • Flexibilities in the Child and Adult Care Food Program around food items, meal times and meal location

Health Insurance Waivers

Governor Cooper has asked to waive certain requirements of the Medicaid program to help pay for care that may extend longer than usual during the crisis.

Waivers are intended to reduce the burden on Medicaid and NC Health Choice providers such as doctors and hospitals as well as beneficiaries. Requested waivers include:

  • Eliminating limits on critical access beds and the rule limiting how long Medicaid will pay for a patient to be admitted to the hospital;
  • Cutting red tape so beneficiaries in jeopardy of losing Medicaid benefits can stay eligible;
  • Relaxing imitations on Medicaid payments for home and community-based services so high-risk patients can get needed treatment at home instead of exposing vulnerable patients in high traffic healthcare settings;
  • Temporarily waiving the required annual enrollment fee, co-payments, and unpaid enrollment fee balances and waiving the prior authorization requirements for the Children’s Health Insurance Program to lift barriers to child health care.

The full letter is available here.

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