Complex care in the time of COVID-19

Building the complex care field Strengthening ecosystems of care COVID response

By Mark Humowiecki, Senior Director, Camden Coalition’s National Center for Complex Health and Social Needs

The spread of COVID-19 in the United States and globally has made stark what we in the complex care field already knew: our fragmented care systems and frail safety net leave our most vulnerable community members at heightened risk, especially during times of national emergency. We also know that we have the tools to help mitigate that risk.

Individuals with complex health and social needs are particularly susceptible to complications from infection with the novel coronavirus. They are also particularly vulnerable to the economic and social impact of social distancing measures put in place to prevent widespread infection.

Here are a few things that we as a complex care field can do to take care of each other and the communities we serve during this time:

1. Get informed. Read what the CDC, other federal agencies, and leading national organizations have released applicable to complex care populations:


Homelessness and housing

Substance use disorders and behavioral health

2. Connect. Social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation. 

3. Advocate. The Families First COVID Response Act was passed and signed into law on Wednesday. It provides for emergency safety net funding (WIC, SNAP, etc.), expanded uninsurance and new paid sick and family leave for individuals who are sick, quarantined, or impacted by school closures due to COVID-19 due to COVID-19. The law also eliminates cost-sharing under private and public insurance for COVID-19 testing and treatment.  

Additional federal legislation including economic stimulus, expanded income support, and industry bailouts is anticipated. It’s critical that these bills prioritize the needs of vulnerable individuals and communities. To learn what you can do to help, see national policy and advocacy updates from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, or follow Families USA on Twitter.

4. Celebrate the wins

  • Kaiser Permanente is partnering with the National Health Care for the Homeless Council to provide $1M in funding for at least four housing activist groups in California, Seattle and Portland, OR to prevent and treat COVID-19 among people experiencing homelessness.
  • CMS grants Florida emergency Medicaid waiver for COVID-19 – Florida became the first state to apply for a waiver to fast track provider’s Medicaid enrollment, waive some preauthorization requirements, waive pre-admission screening for certain assessments for 30 days, provide care in alternative settings and temporarily delay Medicaid hearings and decisions.
  • More than three dozen insurers said they would waive copays and other costs for testing, and the federal government announced testing would be covered as a mandatory essential health benefit for individual and small-group marketplace plans.

We know that this epidemic is everyone’s top concern right now. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for information on extended deadlines related to our conference and other RFP opportunities.

The complex care field is full of compassionate, resilient, and innovative individuals. If we stay connected with each other and unwavering in our goal of providing person-centered care to those who need it most, we will get through this challenge together.