According to the most recent data available in February, more than 93 million people nationwide were enrolled in Medicaid, up nearly a third from pre-pandemic numbers.
WASHINGTON — More than 1 million people have been removed from Medicaid over the past few months as several states quickly moved to stop health care coverage after the coronavirus pandemic ended.
Most were disqualified for not filling out paperwork.
Although the federal government requires an eligibility review, The administration of President Joe Biden is not too pleased on how well some other states are getting the job done.
Daniel Tsai, a top federal Medicaid official recently told reporters: “Pushing things up and rushing will result in those who qualify — children and families — losing coverage for a period of time. time.
Currently, about 1.5 million people have been removed from Medicaid in more than two dozen states beginning the process in April or May, according to publicly available data and reports obtained by The Associated Press.
Florida has lost several hundred thousand people, by far the most of any state. Drop rates are also particularly high in other states. As for those whose cases were decided in May, about half or more were excluded from Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah and West Virginia.
By its own count, Arkansas has removed more than 140,000 people from Medicaid.
The re-qualification has given 28-year-old Jennifer Mojica a headache, who was told in April that she was no longer eligible for Medicaid because Arkansas had misidentified her income as over the limit.
She worked that out, but was later told her 5-year-old son had been removed from Medicaid because she asked for it to be canceled — which had never happened, she said. Her son’s coverage has been restored, but now Mojica says she’s been told her husband is no longer eligible. She said the uncertainty was frustrating.
“It’s like fixing one thing and then another problem pops up, and they fix it and then something else pops up,” Mojica said.
Arkansas officials say they’ve been trying to automatically renew coverage for as many people as possible and are particularly focused on reaching families with children. But state law in 2021 requires that a post-pandemic eligibility redetermination be completed in six months, and the state will continue to “rapidly de-register individuals who are no longer eligible,” the Department of Health and Human Services said. Human Services said in a statement.
Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed criticism of the state’s process.
“People who are not eligible for Medicaid are taking resources from people who need them,” Sanders said on Twitter last month. “But the pandemic is over — and we are well on our way back to normalcy.”
More than 93 million people Nationwide have signed up for Medicaid since the most recent data available in February — an increase of nearly a third from the pre-pandemic total in January 2020. The listings grow because federal law prohibits states. states remove people from Medicaid during a health emergency in exchange for providing the states with increased funding.
Now then Eligibility assessment has continued, states have begun looking at a series of backlogs to determine if people’s incomes or living circumstances have changed. Countries have one year to complete the process. But tracking responses from people proved difficult, because some people moved, changed contact information, or ignored messages about the renewal process.
Before removing the person from Medicaid, the Florida Department of Children and Families said it made between five and 13 contacts, including texts, emails and phone calls. However, the department said 152,600 people have not responded.
Their coverage could be reinstated, if people submit information indicating they are eligible up to 90 days after their term.
Unlike some states, Idaho continues to assess everyone’s eligibility for Medicaid during the pandemic, although it doesn’t rule out anyone. When the registration freeze ended in April, Idaho began processing those cases — down by nearly 67,000 out of the 92,000 whose cases have been decided so far.
“I think there is still a lot of confusion among families about what is going on,” said Hillarie Hagen, a health policy associate at the nonprofit Idaho Voices for Children.
She added, “We could see people coming into the doctor’s office in the coming months not knowing they’ve lost Medicaid.”
Advocates fear that many of the households that lose coverage that may include children actually still qualify, since Medicaid covers children with higher incomes than their parents or guardians. A report last year by the US Department of Health and Human Services forecasts that more children will be affected, with more than half of those unenrolled still actually eligible.
That’s hard to confirm, though, because the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services doesn’t require states to report demographic analyzes of those excluded. In fact, CMS has yet to publish any state-by-state data. AP has collected data directly from states and from other groups that have collected it.
Medicaid recipients in many states have described the eligibility redetermination process as frustrating.
Julie Talamo, of Port Richey, Florida, said she called state officials daily for weeks, spending hours on hold, as she was trying to make sure her 19-year-old son was in need. His special, Thomas, will continue to use Medicaid.
She knew her own insurance would end but was shocked to learn Thomas’s coverage would be reduced to another plan that could cost her family $2,000 a month. Eventually, an activist helped Talamo contact a senior state health official, who confirmed that her son would continue to receive Medicaid.
“This system is designed to make people fail,” says Talamo of the messy process.
Some states may not be able to complete all eligibility decisions due each month. Pennsylvania reported more than 100,000 incomplete cases in both April and May. Tens of thousands of cases remained unfinished in April or May in Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, New Mexico and Ohio.
“If states have been slow to process renewals, that’s going to be a snowball of time over time,” said Tricia Brooks, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families. . Once they get a bunch of unprocessed stuff, I don’t see how they catch up easily.
Among those still considering is Gary Rush, 67, who said he was told in April that he would lose his Medicaid coverage. The Pittsburgh resident said he was told his retirement accounts made him ineligible, even though he said he didn’t withdraw money from them. Rush appealed with the help of an advocacy group and, at a hearing last week, was told he has until July to get rid of about $60,000 in savings.
However, Rush said he doesn’t know what he would do if he lost coverage for the diabetes drug, which costs about $700 a month. Rush said he gets $1,100 a month from Social Security.
In Indiana, 35-year-old Samantha Richards said she’s been on Medicaid all her life and currently works two part-time jobs as a custodian. Richards recalls receiving a letter earlier this year stating that Medicaid protection during the pandemic was coming to an end. She said a local advocacy group helped her navigate the renewal process. But she is still not reassured.
“Medicaid can be a bit unpredictable,” says Richards. “There is still the fear that out of nowhere, I will get a letter saying we have to reapply because we missed some paperwork, or I am late, or I am going to the office. doctor’s office or doctor’s office. pharmacy and they’ll say, ‘Your coverage failed.’”
Lieb reported from Jefferson City, Missouri, and DeMillo from Little Rock, Arkansas. Also present were AP reporters Anthony Izaguirre in Tallahassee, Florida; Marc Levy of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and Arleigh Rodgers of Bloomington, Indiana. Rodgers is a member of the Associated Press/Report for the America Statehouse News Initiative. Report to the US is a nonprofit national service program that sends journalists into local newsrooms to cover confidential issues.