COVID-19 Response: Rep. Susie Lee Introduces Bill to Increase Aid for State Medicaid Programs

April 17, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Susie Lee (Nev.-03) introduced legislation to increase critical federal aid for Medicaid programs as state unemployment rates worsen. The bill creates automatic triggers that increase the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP), or the share of Medicaid costs borne by the federal government, based on each state’s unemployment condition. 

While the Families First Coronavirus Response Act passed in March took a first step to increase FMAP in all states to 6.2 percent, this bill would ensure additional increases in FMAP are automatically triggered for each state as state unemployment levels continue to rise, resulting in quicker and more responsive aid to keep Medicaid programs afloat, and patients covered, during this crisis. These auto-triggered FMAP increases would automatically turn on and scale with the extent of the economic downturn in each state and turn off as the economy improves.

“As our country continues to fight through this pandemic, it’s clear we need to do a better job getting relief into the hands of Nevadans and all Americans as quickly as possible,” said Rep. Lee. “I heard from dozens of Nevadans during my telephone town hall this week who are frustrated—as they should be—that they haven’t received the financial relief they deserve. That’s why this bill is so important.

“The automatic triggers enacted by this bill would get the necessary relief to our working families without Congress needing to go back to the negotiation table to pass more funding as the crisis continues,” Rep. Lee continued. “This helps Nevada and every state respond more quickly and efficiently to the uncertain duration and severity of this pandemic, especially as the effects of the pandemic vary from state to state. Bottom line, it doesn’t matter what relief packages we pass if we can’t get that relief into the hands of the American people. This bill helps get that done.”

“Congresswoman Lee’s bill will provide much needed funds for our Medicaid program, which currently provides health insurance coverage for one in five Nevadans,” said Suzanne Bierman, administrator at the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services Division of Health Care Financing and Policy (Nevada Medicaid). “The Medicaid program is critical to our COVID-19 response. This additional funding is essential at a time when the program is facing significant growth in enrollment and potential budget cuts, as newly unemployed individuals turn to Medicaid for health insurance. These funds will soften the blow to potential budget cuts and will help us to ensure continued access to essential services for Nevadans insured by Medicaid."

BACKGROUND: The text of the bill can be found here.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act increased FMAP to 6.2 percent nationwide. Rep. Lee’s bill is calling for additional state-by-state increases in FMAP based on each state’s economic conditions.