Hundreds of Thousands Have Lost Medicaid Coverage Since Pandemic Protections Expired

Millions of low-income Americans have lost extensive Medicaid coverage in recent weeks Ending Pandemic Era Policy which prohibited states from removing people from the program.

Preliminary data shows that many people lost coverage due to procedural reasons, such as when Medicaid recipients did not return paperwork to verify their eligibility or could not be traced. The high number of terminations based on the procedure suggests that many people are losing coverage even though they are still eligible for it. Many of those who have been released are children.

From the beginning of the epidemic until this spring, states were barred from kicking people off Medicaid under a provision of the coronavirus relief package passed by Congress in 2020. Medicaid enrollment to rise to record levels.

But that policy expired at the end of March, setting in motion a nationwide bureaucratic effort to verify who remains eligible for coverage. In recent weeks, states have begun releasing data on who has lost coverage and why, offering the first glimpse of a punitive tool that so-called disenfranchised some of the poorest and most vulnerable Americans. is taking

Until now, at least 19 states People have started to be removed from the lists. The exact total of how many people have lost coverage is not yet known.

In Arkansas, more than 1.1 million people – more than a third of the state’s residents – were on Medicaid at the end of March. In April, the first month states can begin removing people from the program. 73,000 people lost coverage.This includes approximately 27,000 children aged 17 and under.

Among those let go was Melissa Buford, a hypertensive diabetic who makes $35,000 a year at a health clinic in eastern Arkansas helping families get affordable health insurance. Her two adult sons also lost their coverage.

Like more than 5,000 others in the state, Ms. Buford, 51, no longer qualified for Medicaid because her income had increased. He received a notice telling him he was ineligible, which upset him so much that he threw it in the trash.

But the majority of those who lost coverage in Arkansas were dropped because of the procedure.

Daniel Tsai, a senior official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services who is helping oversee the impeachment process for the Biden administration, said more outreach is needed to help those who lose coverage in this way. He said federal officials are in regular contact with state officials around the country to review preliminary data on winding up and check that people who lose coverage have a fair shot at proving eligibility. Was it or not?

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a Republican, has framed the defunding as a necessary step that would save money and allow Medicaid to operate within its intended scope.

“We are only removing ineligible participants from the program to preserve resources for those who need them and follow the law,” Ms. Sanders wrote in a statement. Opinion essay In this month’s Wall Street Journal. “Some Democrats and activist reporters oppose the Arkansas measures because they want to keep people dependent on government,” he added.

Medicaid, funded jointly by the federal government and the states, has become an increasingly far-reaching component of the American safety net. Earlier this year, 93 million people — more than one in four Americans — enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, up from 71 million before the pandemic.

What’s happened so far in Arkansas is evidence of the massive disruption that unbundling could potentially cause in households across the country in the coming months, leaving Americans scrambling to find new insurance. Or will be forced to figure out how to regain Medicaid coverage they’ve lost. Procedural Reasons Federal Govt estimated that about 15 million people would lose coverage.This includes about 7 million people who are expected to be dropped despite being eligible.

One of the biggest questions is how the process will affect children. In Florida, for example, a boy is in remission from leukemia and needs a biopsy. Recently lost its coverage.

Before researchers at the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families assessed that More than half of the children was covered by Medicaid or CHIP in the United States; John Alker, the center’s executive director, said many children who lose coverage will be dropped for procedural reasons, even though they still qualify.

“These kids have nowhere else to go for coverage,” she said. “Medicaid is the single largest insurer for children. It’s very productive for them.”

In Arkansas, many of the children who lost Medicaid “were the poorest,” said Loretta Alexander, health policy director for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. She added that losing coverage would be especially harmful to young children who need regular developmental checkups early in life.

It’s taking about a year for most states to complete the reopening, each using its own method to remove people from Medicaid. But in Arkansas, legislation passed in 2021 required state officials to complete the process in just six months. According to Gavin Lesnick, a spokesman for the state Department of Human Services, state officials screened eligibility for children with Medicaid coverage in the initial process because they make up a significant portion of enrollees.

In her opinion piece, Ms. Sanders pointed to a campaign the state has run to educate residents about comfort, Renew Arkansas..

“We hired additional staff and enlisted volunteers to help,” he wrote. “We’ve texted, emailed and called tens of thousands of Arkansans who may no longer be eligible for Medicaid, and we’ve made special efforts to reach out to people with disabilities, those in transit, those with conditions like cancer, those receiving dialysis. tried. Women who are pregnant.”

Local health workers like Ms. Buford are trying to help people regain coverage if they’re still eligible. He said he worked with 50 to 75 Medicaid recipients who lost coverage in April, helping them fill out forms or answering their questions about verifying eligibility. .

Other states have also turned away large numbers of Medicaid recipients because of the procedure. In Indiana, about 90 percent About 53,000 people Those who lost Medicaid in the first month of the state shutdown were booted out on those grounds. In Florida, where About 250,000 people Medicaid coverage was lost, with procedural causes accounting for the vast majority.

In addition to taking different approaches to removing people from Medicaid, states are also reporting data on their progress in different ways, making it difficult to compare their strategies in the early stages of phaseout. Is. “We’re comparing apples to oranges,” Ms Alkar said.

Some people who lose Medicaid coverage are expected to get health insurance through their employer. Others are likely to turn to Affordable Care Act marketplaces to sign up for private insurance, and many of them will qualify for no-premium plans.

Debra Miller, 54, of Bullhead City, Ariz., lost Medicaid coverage in April after her nearly $25,000-a-year salary as a Burger King cook left her ineligible. Ms. Miller, a single mother with diabetes and hypothyroidism, worked with an insurance counselor at North Country HealthCare, a network of federally funded health clinics, to enroll in a marketplace plan with a premium of about $70 a month.

“It’s a struggle because it’s a new bill that I haven’t had before,” he said. She added that her new plan doesn’t include vision insurance, which makes her worried about paying for eye appointments as a diabetic.

Marketplace coverage will be too expensive for some people in Arkansas, Ms. Buford said.

“You have a car, a mortgage, kids, food,” she said. “You don’t really have that much left over to pay that much for health insurance.”

Ms. Buford said her work helping others find health insurance in underserved areas was inspired by watching her grandmother struggle to afford her medications and rely on food pantries. Ms. Buford attended a community college near her hometown to care for her ailing father, who died in his 40s. “I love my job because I’m able to help people,” she said.

Now that she’s lost her Medicaid coverage, Ms. Buford said she hopes to get an affordable marketplace plan in the near future. She said the family plan offered by the clinic where she works is too expensive.

“I’m grateful for what I have because no one else has what I have,” Ms. Buford said. “I wish I could keep my Medicaid.”

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