AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott today announced that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) has submitted a Section 1135 waiver to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requesting flexibility in administering Medicaid to mitigate potential health care workforce shortages during the COVID-19 outbreak.
"We are committed to supporting our front-line medical workers and reducing regulatory burdens that could otherwise hinder their service to Texans," said Governor Abbott. "The waiver we are requesting will alleviate potential staffing and resource shortages and ensure our health care workers and facilities are fully equipped to provide care to Texans in need throughout the COVID-19 response."
"During this unprecedented public health emergency, we need to cut through the red tape and help bolster our health care workforce so that Texas can respond quickly to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak," said Phil Wilson, HHSC executive commissioner. "We’re working closely with our federal partners and doing everything we can to make sure people get the help they need."
If approved, the federal flexibilities would include:
- Allowing fully trained, qualified nurse aides to provide home health and hospice services even if they have not been employed and paid as an aide within the preceding 24 months, which will help expand the eligible pool of direct care workers and help providers facing any critical staffing shortages.
- Allowing non-clinical staff to provide feeding assistance to residents in nursing facilities without completing the required 16-hour training course. Since group meals are no longer served due to social distancing, additional feeding assistants are needed for one-on-one assistance. These assistants would be supervised and assigned only to non-complex cases.
- Allowing individuals with intellectual disabilities in the Home and Community-based Services and Intermediate Care Facility programs to temporarily receive their same services in either setting. This will give providers greater flexibility to meet staffing and resource challenges while continuing to provide critical services in both programs.
If granted, the Section 1135 Medicaid waiver flexibilities would remain in place for as long as necessary during the public health emergency.