The COVID-19 pandemic has presented great challenges including economic downturn. In 2020, funding for initiatives were eliminated or paused in response to the crisis. The Senate Finance Committee on the House Appropriations introduced recommendations and changes to the governor’s budget proposal on February 10. Here is a breakdown of the proposed budget and an opportunity to take action to ensure children and families are prioritized.
Extend FAMIS MOMS Prenatal Care for Eligible Undocumented Women
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a sharp emphasis on longstanding inequities in health care coverage and access across the nation. Every policy decision must be intentional in eliminating these gaps. Extending prenatal coverage produces $2.3M in net savings in Virginia. The House and Senate both proposed to amend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) State Plan for the Family Access to Medical Insurance Security (FAMIS) program. The program would provide prenatal coverage to eligible pregnant women through the program, regardless of a pregnant woman’s immigration or citizenship status. The amendment provides $11.1 million from the general fund and $20.7 million from federal matching funds.
In addition, the Senate also included language to expand healthcare coverage options for undocumented children. This would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Resources to convene a workgroup with the appropriate state agencies and other stakeholders to conduct research and recommend strategies for funding healthcare services for undocumented immigrant children.
Home Visiting Medicaid Benefit Not Included
We were disappointed that neither the House or Senate included the request to included a Medicaid-funded benefit for home visiting. Our state home visiting programs support pregnant women, families, and low-income parents of children birth to age five through an evidence-based model proven to improve overall child health and well-being. Instead of including the reimbursement, the Senate included budget language to convene a workgroup and make recommendations on a Medicaid home visiting benefit. The Department would report recommendations from the work group to the Chairs of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committee by December 1, 2021.
Fetal & Infant Mortality Review Team
The National Vital Statics Report found that Black women died at 2.5 times the rate of white women from pregnancy-related causes. This is attributed to a combination of limited access to quality prenatal care, existing health disparities like obesity and hypertension, as well as racial bias in pain assessment. The House and Senate both proposed $51,146 from the general fund the second year for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to convene a work group to develop a plan to establish a Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Team at the Virginia Department of Health upon the passage of House Bill 1950.