Cronkite News: Millions of Americans Lose Medicaid Insurance Due to Termination

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Thursday, October 12, 2023

By Oakley Seiter

Cronkite News

PHOENIX, Arizona – Over the past six months, the country has been experiencing a Medicaid “rollback,” in which millions of individuals who were enrolled in Medicaid health insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic are being canceled because their current income makes them ineligible. States are now removing people from their enrollment systems because enhanced federal funding that paid for Medicaid expansion during the COVID-19 pandemic is running out. The state agency that administers Medicaid payments to Arizona residents is the Arizona Healthcare Cost Containment System (AHCCCS). On April 1, AHCCCS began the process of reviewing all 2.5 million Arizonans enrolled in Medicaid through federal databases that verified that a certain number of people were still eligible to remain on Medicaid automatically. AHCCCS sent renewal forms to those who were not automatically eligible to check their information for errors or to verify that they are, in fact, over the income limit. Heidi Capriotti, communications administrator for AHCCCS, said they are re-evaluating and redetermining enrollees’ eligibility, looking at income and medical criteria, and contacting members for additional information if needed. As of September 8 of this year, we have started renewals for approximately 1.5 million people and there are still about 1 million people left, Capriotti said. Capriotti said the main cause of unsubscription is people’s lack of response when additional information is needed. So far, 32% of renewals have been approved and 11% have been discontinued. One-third of people who have been terminated from Medicaid in Arizona are children. People need to respond, Capriotti said. We also encourage people to respond even if they think they are no longer eligible. Especially parents, because children can move to CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (KidsCare), even if the parents don’t meet Medicaid eligibility criteria. In some states, children were removed from Medicaid coverage because their parents exceeded the adult eligibility limit, even though the children still met eligibility criteria. On August 30, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a call to action on these state system issues. According to the agency, nearly 500,000 children and other individuals who were wrongfully terminated from Medicaid or CHIP will regain their coverage. Arizona has been evaluating family members individually. This means that even if a parent does not meet Medicaid qualifications, their children can still meet the criteria and transition to CHIP. Matt Jewett, director of health policy at Childrens Action Alliance, said this approach of automatically renewing eligible children even when their parents are ineligible is the right way to do it. Another call to action came on September 29 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which sent a letter to state health officials reinforcing that states must provide 12 months of continuous coverage for children under age 19 on Medicaid and Insurance. of Child Health. Program (CHIP) starting January 1, 2024.

Nurse Diana Weaselboy performs a check-up at the Patina Wellness Center in Phoenix, part of Native American Connections, in this 2019 file photo. Photo by Ricky Cornish/Cronkite News
AHCCCS is increasing the eligibility threshold for CHIP on November 1, and as a result, Jewett predicts 12,000 new children will be enrolled. Jewett said if people go over the income limit, AHCCCS sends the application to the health insurance marketplace and someone will contact the family about alternative health coverage. If they turn to the health insurance marketplace, they could pay very expensive co-pays or have high deductibles, Jewett said. So we want to keep them in AHCCCS and receive care if possible, but the market is much more accessible than it used to be. Claudia Maldonado, director of outreach and enrollment at the nonprofit Arizona Alliance for Community Health Centers, said she has witnessed families who lost Medicaid coverage but found affordable alternatives on the market. There’s a lot going on, Maldonado said. So just the fact that we have an entire community in this state dedicated to helping people go through that renewal process or enroll in marketplace health insurance is really critical to making sure that we’re keeping people enrolled and most importantly, guiding them in these processes. changes. She said her organization’s goal is to prevent community members from going without health insurance. We are joining together with our Medicaid program, all health plans and the community at large to help as many people as possible, Maldonado said. To help navigate both the Medicaid system and the health care market, the state-run Cover Arizona coalition provides assistance through this website. It matches individuals based on their ZIP code with organizations that can offer support in person, over the phone, or virtually. An automated communication service called AHCCCS Connect was launched this year to make it easier for Arizonans to find more information about their license plates. People can visit Health-e-Arizona PLUS to sign up for email and text alerts to be notified about the status of their application, whether it has been approved or denied, its renewal dates, and whether any action is needed on its account. The ability to text and email people has really helped with responsiveness. I think that’s why we’re seeing, in August, the highest percentage of people remain eligible because they either respond, they’re automatically determined to be eligible, or they’re getting the message and responding to our requests for information, Capriotti said. .
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Note: This story originally appeared on Cronkite News. It is published under a Creative Commons license. Cronkite News is produced by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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