In order to keep the people safe and keep the economy from collapsing during the coronavirus shutdown, the federal government has been pumping money into the system and been reducing the red tape restricting how that money is spent.

That trend continued this week when the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) got approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to temporarily waive certain Medicaid restrictions as part of the state’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.

According to state health officials, the waivers will “provide flexibility to NC Medicaid and providers to address the urgent health care needs of beneficiaries during this public health emergency.”

These changes include removing certain dollar and stay limits for some programs, expanding the types of locations where the services can legitimately be delivered, and easing the requirements for reviews of personalized care plans and in-person meetings.

The new “flexibilities,” will be in effect until whichever date comes first: (1) March 12, 2021, (2) the end of the current public health emergency, or (3) when the State of North Carolina determines the new flexibilities are no longer needed.

Earlier this month, Guilford County government made a move meant to help the county deliver Medicaid services to county residents faster. The Guilford County Board of Commissioners approved the addition of nearly two dozen county social services positions to process Medicaid applications.

Ordinarily, it would take a long time for that move to be felt by applicants; however, Guilford County Social Services Director Heather Skeens had been eagerly anticipating the move and the department already had workers lined up to fill the slots even before the commissioners gave their approval.

With the additional county staff and the flexibility that the federal government allowed this week, Medicaid applicants in Guilford County may be pleased by the speed of payments and in the reduction in limits and red tape pertaining to some programs.

The new “temporary” modifications allowed by the federal government will affect both home-based and community-based services that are provided through Medicaid waivers.