Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the Ensuring Access to Primary Care for Women & Children Act, legislation to help ensure individuals and families can continue to see primary care providers who best meet their needs, by reinstating the alignment of Medicaid payments with Medicare payments for two more years and during any public health emergency, including the current COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation would also expand the alignment in payments to include certain providers who are especially important to women’s health, including:  obstetricians and gynecologists, nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, and physician assistants.

“We know that our healthcare system is under tremendous pressure,” said Senator Brown. “The need for primary care providers will continue to grow as more Americans enroll in Medicaid during this economic downturn. Investing in our primary care workforce and expanding access to care for Ohio families is one of the best ways to ensure Ohioans maintain access to consistent care that best meets their needs.

“It’s more important than ever during this pandemic that we ensure everyone is able to get the health care they need, when and where they need it. Medicaid plays a critical role providing affordable health care for tens of millions of families—particularly in times of crisis when millions may be losing employer-sponsored insurance —but we need to make sure that care is accessible as well by encouraging more providers to see Medicaid patients. ”
said Senator Murray. “This legislation works toward that goal by increasing Medicaid reimbursements to align them with Medicare and by expanding eligibility to providers women are more likely to see on a regular basis. These are straightforward steps that would help women and families across the country get the care they need, and we should take them right away.”

As of February 2020, nearly 64 million Americans were enrolled in the Medicaid program. This number will likely increase as the economic downturn caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) results in  more Americans enrolling in Medicaid, significantly increasing the need for primary care physicians in the program. In order to meet the need for additional support for Medicaid enrollees and their providers during public health emergencies, the Ensuring Access to Primary Care for Women & Children Act includes a provision to ensure primary care parity automatically reinstates any time there is a public health emergency. Reinstating the primary care parity expands health provider options by directing more funds toward Medicaid primary care providers.

Research has demonstrated that higher Medicaid payment rates significantly increase appointment availability for Medicaid enrollees. Studies have also shown that, because nurse practitioners and other health professionals, such as physician assistants, are trained to and already deliver many primary care services, extending the pay increase to these professionals could increase access to primary care, particularly in underserved areas.

In addition to Brown and Murray, the legislation is also sponsored by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Jeff Merkley.

The Ensuring Access to Primary Care for Women & Children Act has been endorsed by the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of PAs, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Physicians, and the American Osteopathic Association.