On Thursday, March 3 the Administration through the Department of Health and Human Services announced they were expanding Medicaid coverage to pregnant women and children beyond what the current Medicaid coverage allows. The announcement by HHS would expand care to an estimated 15,000 patients.  The HHS expansion would also increase some of the coverage to 30,000 patients already covered by Medicaid under current rules.

As far as Congress is concerned, in the Senate, S 2579, a bill that would provide some $250 million in emergency funds has been blocked by Senator Bill Lee (R-UT) over procedural and spending concerns.  The legislation which takes $250 million from an unused account would provide $100 million to states that find themselves in emergency status (Flint), another $100 million would be available to states for loans to address infrastructure water-related needs and the final $50 million would flow through HHS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help monitor lead levels in children exposed.

It is hoped that the bill can get a release from Senator Lee and be taken up this week.  If the Senate does act it will then have to make its way through the House.

Earlier in the week HHS also released $3.6 million in emergency funds through the Head Start program.  It will allow for longer school hours, more home visits, expanded Early Head Start, three more Head Start classrooms and some additional supports such as transportation for doctors’ visits by enrolled families.

Last month more than three dozen groups including CWLA, signed onto a letter circulated by the Foster Family-based Treatment Association (FFTA) calling on Senate leaders to move legislation that would provide emergency financial assistance to address the lead poisoning crisis in Flint.   The letter said,

As organizations representing advocates for America’s children and families, we write in support of the children of Flint….The urgency of this situation requires that there be no delay caused by arguments over offsets; nor should other human needs programs that assist our nation’s children and families be cut to pay for addressing this crisis.”