2020 Session Pause- Week 2

Relevant COVID-19 Updates:

Iowa’s COVID-19 Cases

As of Monday (3/30) we are 4 weeks into this pandemic being documented in Iowa. Today there are 424 positive cases, 51 hospitalizations, and 6 deaths from COVID-19 in Iowa. There are now confirmed cases in all age categories ranging from 0-81+, tests have been administered to individuals from all 99 counties, the state has administered just over 6,500 total tests, the State has confirmed 36 individuals have recovered from the virus, the first outbreak in a Long-Term Care facility was confirmed in Linn County and there are approximately 1,900 tests available for use in Iowa. It was reported this weekend that Iowa’s cases are expected to peak sometime between April 21-30, which is consistent with the President’s latest social distancing guidelines.

There are status reports of monitoring and testing of COVID-19 in Iowa is provided by IDPH and can be found here. In addition, a public hotline has been established for Iowans with questions about COVID-19. The line is available 24/7 by calling 2-1-1 or 1-800-244-7431.


Health Care Updates

Below is a high-level health care update related to COVID-19, based on information from the CDC, CMS, U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, Iowa Dept. of Human Services, and Iowa Dept. of Public Health.

  • The U.S.  Dept. of Health & Human Services released a series of recommendations regarding the health care workforce that governors were urged to implement at the state level. AS sent this information on 3/23/20. For an updated list of recommendations released on 3/24, please click here.
  • On Monday, 3/23, CMS announced it will not authorize standard surveys/inspections for home health agencies, nursing homes, and other care sites.
  • On Wednesday, 3/25, CMS approved Iowa’s 1135 Waiver request. This waiver offers flexibility for intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, nursing facility pre-admission screenings, and hospitals related to staffing. This is retroactively effective beginning March 13, 2020. Iowa DHS has also requested 1115 and 1915 waivers which are pending CMS approval. These would allow the waiver of co-pays and premiums, and pause dis-enrollments. DHS has already waived all co-pays, premiums, and contributions for the span of the emergency declaration, retroactively effective on March 13, 2020. The DHS letter can be found here.
  • Gov. Reynolds suspended elective surgeries beginning 5pm, Friday, March 27, so long as they don’t pose “undue risk to patients” until April 16th. This controversially includes abortions as elective surgeries, which the ACLU and Planned Parenthood are challenging.
  • Abbott Laboratories has released a new COVID-19 mobile testing device that provides testing results within five minutes. Iowa will be getting at least 15 of the machines soon, but hopes to get more as production continues. Gov. Reynolds believes that this will be incredibly helpful for testing of health care workers and in long-term care facilities.
  • Medicaid Prescription Access: DHS released a letter on March 19, 2020 outlining the two options to obtain additional medication. Members have the option to obtain additional medication through one of the following options: override for Early Refill or Change to Days’ Supply. For a link to the full letter, click here. The pharmacy information is outlined at the bottom of page 2 and top of page 3.
  • On Saturday, 3/28, the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services- Office for Civil Rights in Action released a Bulletin, providing guidelines to ensure that laws and regulation are implemented that prohibit discrimination stating, “persons with disabilities should not be denied medical care on the basis of stereotypes, assessments of quality of life, or judgments about a person’s relative ‘worth’ … Decisions by covered entities concerning whether an individual is a candidate for treatment should be based on an individualized assessment of the patient and his or her circumstances, based on the best available objective medical evidence.”


CARES ACT Overview

Congressional and Administration negotiators reached agreement on the $ 2 Billion, Phase 3 COVID-19 economic stimulus bill early Wednesday, 3/25, and the bill was signed into law by Friday, 3/27. The bill provides significant funding for businesses, hospitals, schools, and social support programs, among many other things.

  • Unemployment benefits for many who did not qualify before
  • Includes coverage for workers who are furloughed, gig workers, and freelancers. Increases payments by $600 per week for four months on top of what state unemployment programs pay.
  • Cash assistance to everyone
    • For those with a work-eligible SSN and an adjusted gross income under $75,000 ($150,000 if married) who is not a dependent; plus $500 for each child. The assistance phases out totally at $99,000 for individuals and $198,000 for joint filers without children.
  • Stabilization funding for public and nonpublic schools
  • FEMA disaster assistance
  • Additional funding to states, hospitals and charitable groups
  • Additional funding for SNAP (food stamps) and homeless assistance

Other Relevant Updates

  • On Tuesday (3/24) in response to COVID-19, President Trump approved the Presidential Major Disaster Declaration submitted by Gov. Reynolds. This removes a $5 million cap on federal funds and makes available the Community Disaster Loan Program. It provides assistance for work and services, including emergency protective measures.
    • Still pending are the Governor’s requests for federal activation of the Disaster Unemployment Assistance and Crisis Counseling programs and statewide Hazard Mitigation Assistance funding.
  • All tax deadlines have been extended as well. This includes income and property tax payments.
  • Reynold continues to hold daily press conferences at 2:30 pm. The press conferences will be livestreamed and posted in full on Governor Reynolds’ Facebook Page.