COVID-19 Updates: Healthcare Access and Public Benefits

Healthcare Access and Public Benefits

From our Family Support & Health Care team: Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Family Support and Health Care team is working to ensure family stability through fair access to vital healthcare and public services during this period of uncertainty.

We are particularly focused on the most vulnerable groups in our community who often do not have access to these services: children, seniors, people living with disabilities, immigrants and their families. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is monitoring the situation to make sure residents continue to have uninterrupted access to benefits and healthcare during the COVID-19 outbreak. Anyone experiencing issues should contact us by calling 704-376-1600.

Health Insurance Navigator Services still available by phone: The Advocacy Center’s Health Insurance Navigators are still available for phone appointments to help consumers understand their health coverage options and assist them with the following:

  • Marketplace applications (Affordable Care Act)
  • Medicaid applications
  • Food Stamp (SNAP) applications
  • Marketplace appeals
  • Medicaid denials/terminations
  • Issues accessing care through private insurance or Medicaid

Navigators can help people complete their applications online by phone.

To schedule a FREE appointment:

  • go online to ncnavigator.net, Local navigator appointments are available online under zip code 28204 listed as “Phone Appointment with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.”
  • call the statewide appointments hotline 1-855-733-3711,
  • call our new Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy Navigator direct line at 980-256-3782.

Navigators are also available to assist clients needing to communicate with Mecklenburg County DSS, specifically with the Office of Consumer Advocacy, to help them address with any barriers they may be experiencing regarding access to healthcare or food stamps.

Qualifying for Health Insurance through Special Enrollment Periods during COVID-19: As a reminder, many individuals may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) to enroll in Marketplace health coverage outside of Open Enrollment if they have had recently experienced any of the following:

  • marriage,
  • permanent move,
  • changes in immigration status,
  • release from incarceration,
  • adding a family member (birth, adoption, placement for foster care),
  • increase in income (from below 100% to over 100% of the Federal Poverty Level),
  • loss of coverage,

SEPs are generally life changes that effect your access to health coverage and enrollment must be done within 60 days of the change. Individuals interested in applying for Medicaid can do so all year around and do not need an SEP.

While our government and healthcare systems are expanding access to testing for the uninsured, enrollment in a Marketplace plan can cover any additional associated costs such as a hospitalization and provide peace of mind for consumers during this tense time.

Access to Medicaid during COVID-19: (April 1)

  • During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, states must NOT terminate Medicaid eligibility except for:
    • if the beneficiary moves out of the state.
    • if the beneficiary voluntarily requests termination of Medicaid benefits.
  • North Carolina County Departments of Social Services must accept self-attestation for all eligibility criteria except citizenship and immigration status, when documentation and/or electronic sources are not available.
  • Individuals who must pay an enrollment fee for NC Health Choice or an enrollment fee and/or premium for Health Care for Workers with Disabilities (HCWD) will be exempt from that requirement until further notice.

N.C. Medicaid Program expands access to telemedicine: (March 23) Medicaid is temporarily modifying its Telemedicine and Telepsychiatry Clinical Coverage Policies to better enable the delivery of remote care to Medicaid beneficiaries. In addition to telephone conversations and secure electronic messaging, the modifications will include the use of two-way real-time interactive audio and video to provide and support physical and behavioral health care when participants are in different physical locations. Read more.

N.C. requests waivers for Medicaid program: (March 23)

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) approved NC’s 1135 waiver request to allow for more flexibility in providing healthcare access, such as:

  • providing services in alternative settings;
  • extending the amount of time individuals have to request a Medicaid fair hearing for fee-for-service eligibility and service appeal requests;
  • temporarily suspending prior authorization requirements for medically necessary services provided through the fee-for-service delivery system, and
  • faster application and enrollment processes for health care professionals to provide care to Medicaid beneficiaries.

Read more about the waivers here and here.

(March 18) The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services has requested waivers from the federal government to ensure uninterrupted services for the state’s Medicaid beneficiaries. The waiver request includes measure to:

– streamline the enrollment process

– waive limits on access to hospital beds and lengths of stay in the hospital

– waive restrictions to expand alternatives to institutionalized care, such as in-home care services

Read more.

Access to healthcare for immigrants and their families: (March 18)

According to the National Immigration Law Center, our national partner:

  • The Families First Act provides additional funding to pay for coronavirus testing for anyone who is uninsured. The funding will pay for testing at community health centers, outpatient clinics, and doctors’ offices.
  • Immigrants can continue to access services at community health centers, regardless of their immigration status, and at a reduced cost or free of charge depending on their income. However, people should call first to find out the availability of COVID-19 screening and testing. Health centers may do patient assessments over the phone or using telehealth.
  • Eligibility for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces has not changed.
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently posted an alert clarifying that it will not consider testing, treatment, or preventive care (including vaccines if a vaccine becomes available) related to COVID-19 in a public charge inadmissibility determination, even if the health care services are covered by Medicaid.

Learn more from NILC.

Changes to N.C. food stamp certification periods: (March 18) The N.C. Office Economic and Family Services announced plans to extend the state’s Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) certification periods for all cases that have certification periods ending March 31 or April 30, 2020, with the exception of Simplified Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamp) cases. Automatic extension will alleviate the need for FNS households to leave their homes to mail or deliver their re-certification forms or to retrieve required verification, reducing potential exposure to COVID-19.

Mecklenburg County DSS offices closed to the public: (March 17) Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy just learned that Mecklenburg County is closing its Department of Social Services (DSS) offices to the public as of tomorrow, March 18, and will be conducting all business via telephone and mail.

At Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s urging, DSS has agreed to honor the date of phone calls as date of application for applicants, to not terminate benefits missed deadlines, to allow late appeals, and to post clear signage in front of their buildings outlining this information.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy is monitoring the situation to make sure residents continue to have uninterrupted access to benefits during the COVID-19 outbreak. Anyone experiencing issues should contact us by calling 704-376-1600.

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