Legislative Update July 2021: COVID-19, Nebraska State Legislature

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This is the legislative update for July 2021. View all updates here.


State

Nebraska Legislature Recap

The Nebraska Legislature adjourned May 27, 2021, a few weeks early to allow senators to return to Lincoln late-September for redistricting. This adjournment date implies August 28, 2021 is the effective date for all bills passed without an emergency clause.

Children’s successes include-

  • LB380, mainline budget bill that increased Medicaid provider rates 2% in FY 2021 and another 2% in FY 2022
  • LB400, change requirements related to coverage of telehealth by insurers and Medicaid, maintaining three COVID-19 flexibilities post-public health emergency
  • LB487, allowing audio-only for behavioral health services via telehealth
  • LB139, adopt the COVID-19 Liability Act and the Health Care Crisis Protocol Act
  • LB108, extending SNAP benefits to families within 160% of the federal poverty level (FPL)
  • LB247, create the Mental Health Crisis Hotline Task Force
  • LB322, adopt the School Safety and Security Reporting System Act
  • LB26, provide a sales tax exemption for residential water service
  • LB100, provide limits on provider contracts pertaining to multiple procedure payment
  • LB639, adopt the Seizure Safe Schools Act
  • LB273, change provisions relating to youth rehabilitation and treatment centers and provide for immediate changes of placement
  • LB388, adopt the Nebraska Broadband Bridge Act
  • LB411, require sharing of information with the designated health information exchange and change provisions related to the Health Information Technology Board
  • LB428, juveniles at YRTCs are to receive an appropriate education equivalent to educational opportunities offered in public schools
  • LB452, adopt the Financial Literacy Act and provide graduation requirements and academic content standards
  • LB485, expanding eligibility for the Child Care Subsidy Program to families less than 185% of the FPL
  • LB527, change provisions relating to transition services for students with a developmental disability
  • LB630, provide for a study of the efficacy of commercial air filters in classrooms

Many will argue this has been the most challenging legislative session yet, but COVID-19 isn’t totally to blame. There has been a divisiveness in the body unlike any before that has unfortunately interrupted the passage of significant bills Children’s has been involved with. The two bills that suffered the greatest due to political and personal angst are-

  • LB529, the Education Committee priority bill that would have created a registry of all social workers/ healthcare professionals in each school building across the state, an excellent resource for providers to better collaborate with schools on behalf of our patients and families. Additionally, the bill would have used lottery funds to afford mental and behavioral health training for teachers and administrators, generated scholarships for children in need and among the many great provisions. The bill failed to advance cloture by 5 votes.
  • LB376, a bill that would have supplemented the continuum of developmental disability services and other state programming for children with disabilities, decrease the state’s current waiting list for home and community-based services, and offer a pathway for children with disabilities to gain access to the medical assistance program and capped long-term services and supports.

Over the interim, Children’s Hospital & Medical Center (Children’s) has been following the St. Francis Oversight Committee hearings and actively closely, recently submitting comments on the LR29 and completing the stakeholder survey in hopes to work together to provide quality services to all children in foster care.

Meanwhile, Children’s continues to work with numerous stakeholder groups at the state and federal level to generate a strategic plan for the funding made available through the American Rescue Plan Act. As previously reported, Nebraska will receive $976M through the State Fiscal Recovery Fund and $128M through a Capital Projects fund with comprehensive constraints. This extraordinary funding opportunity is only 29% of the overall $3.6B available to the State to recover the economy brough on by the pandemic.  We are working with other stakeholders and the State to determine coordinate opportunities to advocate together for these one-time financial resources to be invested in children across the state. While these funds are a great opportunity, the request must show long-term sustainability for any programmatic funding requests.

We anticipate in the coming months Governor Pete Ricketts (R-NE) will prepare a budget proposal to outline his priorities for the funds. From there, a public hearing will be held on LR 178, a shell bill designed by the Appropriations Committee to hold hearings to solicit input on priorities for these federal funds. We anticipate these hearings will not begin until after the Special Redistricting Session, which Speaker of the Legislature Matt Hilgers (R-Dist. 21, Lincoln) announced will occur September 13 through September 30.  This new timeline is encouraging as we continue to work closely in stakeholder sessions to earmark the funds toward pediatric specific initiatives.

Nebraska State of Emergency Update

As of June 30, at 11:59pm, the State of Emergency in Nebraska has expired; the State of Emergency went into effect on March 11, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.According to Governor Pete Ricketts, all Executive Orders (EOs) in place will expire 30 days (July 30, 2021) after the state of emergency is lifted, however, there are a handful of EOs the Governor is maintaining through midnight on Aug. 27, 2021-

Per Children’s request:

  1. EO 20-12: Relief for Hospitals and Health Care Facilities and Expanded Use of Telehealth Services
  • This EO will allow telehealth flexibilities advanced through LB400, i.e. originating site, verbal consent, audio-only for behavioral health, and LB487, parity for reimbursement of behavioral health services provided via telehealth, to stay continuous until the laws become effective on Aug. 28, 2021.
  • This EO also supports hospitals to keep COVID-19 positive patients isolated from other patients by flexibly using beds that are not licensed for critical care.

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