Just about every day now, there’s an announcement from private industry or state, local or federal government that reveals changes meant to make the COVID-19 pandemic less onerous on people – and, on Wednesday, Sept. 23, the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) announced a new change meant to provide some relief for those with developmental disabilities who can no longer physically attend schools or learning center programs, but who are attending schools virtually.

A Medicaid waiver is a provision in which the federal government waives rules that would usually apply to the Medicaid program for a state. The intention of the waivers – which essentially get rid of Medicaid red tape – is to allow individual states to accomplish certain goals, like reducing costs, expanding coverage, or improving care for certain targeted groups like the elderly or the developmentally challenged.

Thanks to the move this week, Medicaid beneficiaries operating on the North Carolina Innovations Waiver who are attending school virtually due to the pandemic can now receive the same financial support during remote learning that they would by actually being at a school or a learning center.

“The pandemic is challenging enough,” said NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen this week in a press release announcing the expanded options for the developmentally challenged in the state. “We need to ensure that children with intellectual and developmental disabilities have the assistance to successfully participate in remote learning.”

NCDHHS requested that Medicaid Services and the Centers for Medicare allow people the benefit.

The “Innovations Waiver” is a federally-approved Medicaid home and community-based services waiver meant to meet the needs of people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.