Grassroots groups help Medicaid recipients regain lost coverage – Stateline

Eight months after states began excluding millions of low-income families from Medicaid rolls, grassroots groups say they are leading the push to enroll people denied coverage for bureaucratic reasons.

Nationwide, more than 12.5 million people have lost coverage since April. Then the federal pandemic provision that required states not to remove anyone from the lists expired and states resumed income eligibility checks.

Federal officials over the summer allowed states to exercise flexibility to avoid potentially unnecessary coverage losses, and sent letters to governors warning that large numbers of removals for procedural reasons and long wait times could violate federal rules. Can.

Yet, as of December 13, according to the health policy research organization KFF, 71% of those excluded lost their coverage due to procedural enrollment, that is, they missed the paperwork or otherwise by the specified date. The renewal process was not completed.

Many of them may be eligible for coverage, but struggle to get the paperwork through state bureaucracy.

Children, young adults, and Black and Hispanic people are overrepresented on the Medicaid rolls compared to their share in the overall population. A federal Office of Health Policy brief published in August 2022 before unwinding projections estimated that about a third of those predicted to lose coverage would be Hispanic and another 15% would be Black groups with health disparities that increased during the pandemic. They went. About 60% of people enrolled in Medicaid are Black, Hispanic, Asian, or multiracial.

More than 2.4 million children have lost coverage. On Monday, the US Department of Health and Human Services issued another warning, sending a letter to the governors of Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Dakota and Texas, the nine states where the number of children with the disease is highest. ,

Despite federal warnings, red and blue states aggressively decimate Medicaid rolls

Officials urged states, which have seen 60% of children losing Medicaid coverage nationwide, to use the flexibilities provided by federal officials to help prevent children and their families from losing coverage due to red tape. Do this, given that these efforts are especially important for children and families. Colour.

The department also noted that the 10 states that did not expand Medicaid, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming, disenrolled more children than states that did. Given, who have jointly expanded.

Federal officials also announced that rules allowing automatic renewals will be extended through the end of 2024 to give states more time to keep more families covered.

States have released online tools to help guide local leaders and providers on how to enroll. For example, Texas created ambassador toolkits in Spanish and English, featuring social media graphics and flyers that walked families and older residents on how to set up an online account to re-enroll. Utah said it has developed its own toolkit and flyers, as well as billboard and radio ads in 13 languages.

Still, grassroots groups say they are doing the heavy lifting.

Dr. Dena Hubbard, a neonatologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, who chairs the public policy committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Kansas chapter, said these advocacy outreach efforts go beyond the walls of the Capitol.

[Theyre] “Going out to people, meeting them where they are in their community, finding out what they need, knowing where they are, and helping them get the services they need,” he said. I feel strongly that the grassroots level is where it’s at.

depressed and anxious

Karina Gonzalez’s 18-year-old son has had enough psychiatric medications to see him through recovery by the end of December.

The Kansas City, Kansas, mother of four worries what will happen next. Her family was removed from Medicaid coverage in October, she said, and the children weren’t able to go to any doctor’s appointments.

Gonzalez’s household depends on the income of her husband, who works in construction.

“It affected us,” Gonzalez said in Spanish as his 16-year-old daughter translated. She said she feels frustrated and nervous, especially during flu season.

Gonzalez received a letter the first week of October saying the family would no longer be covered. She said she doesn’t know why they were removed and is struggling with the online ConCare system, which is not available in Spanish. That’s when she reached out to El Centro, a community health advocacy group that helps Kansas Latino families. She said Spanish-speaking patient navigators there are helping them gather and submit documents for re-enrollment.

In addition to the online portal, renewal applicants and families whose first language is not English can call and connect with a language assistance line, said Matt Lara, chief of staff for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

“Kansas is not a Medicaid expansion state, which means our eligibility threshold for non-disabled, non-pregnant adults is incredibly low,” Lara said in an emailed statement on the rate of children losing coverage. “As a result, more than 2/3 of our enrollees are children, and as a result they have become the largest group of members to lose eligibility.”

10 Medicaid holdout states struggling to improve health coverage

In Utah, Oreta Tupola is the program coordinator for the Utah Community Health Workers Association. Their community health workers are helping families from the Latino and Pacific Islander community reapply.

Families are calling the emergency room after taking a relative there and finding out they no longer have coverage. Many of the clients of their community health workers suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, and take necessary medications for these conditions.

Now we’re starting to get calls from our customers, they’re saying, I went to the doctor, or I’m at the ER, and I can’t get in,’ Tupola said. They won’t see me. [Theyd say] I didn’t know I didn’t have coverage. Or one of the women who called me said, Hey, I’m trying to go get my medication and when I went to get my medication, I found out I don’t have Medicaid anymore. Now we are fighting to get them back and approved, which is another long process.

Many people who have lost Medicaid coverage may qualify for it. Utah has the second-highest rate of people losing coverage for administrative or paperwork reasons at 94%, behind New Mexico at 95%.

New Mexico’s Department of Health Services told Stateline in an email that it is using multilingual awareness campaigns along with some eased federal rules, such as a 30-day delay in procedural expiration, which extends renewal deadlines. As a result, the department claims it is seeing minimal eligibility depletion.

assessing changes

Last week, in two columns published in the monthly peer-reviewed health care journal Health Affairs, health policy experts addressed this.

Experts at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a research and policy institute that advocates left-leaning policies, wrote that maintaining policies and practices that make it difficult for people to enroll and maintain their coverage should no longer be acceptable. Makes it so difficult. He said the process has shed light on the country’s fragmented health care system.

Alison Orris, co-author and senior fellow at the center, said in an interview that the continuous enrollment period has largely shown the benefits of reducing red tape.

He said this churn is exacerbating some of the challenges that have always existed in the system. The pandemic really exposed a lot of the flaws in many social service programs, and in Medicaid, we know there have always been a higher number of people who were eligible for Medicaid but were not enrolled and that’s probably a sign that this It was very difficult to get enrolled and stay enrolled in coverage.

Craig Wilson, director of health policy at the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, co-authored the second column. Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families reports that Arkansas has the largest share of rural children covered by Medicaid. About 59% of Medicaid enrollees in Arkansas lost coverage.

Many of them may not have had any communication with the Medicaid office in three or more years.

Craig Wilson, director of health policy at the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement

Wilson is calling for a multistate assessment to compare states’ eligibility redeterminations, who was hardest hit geographically and demographically, and where and whether they got other coverage or fell through the coverage gap.

He told Stateline that there are some opportunities to learn from what happened here that can be applied to future situations, especially for at-risk communities. If there are states that did some things differently, and were more precise, in identifying people who were either eligible or ineligible, and steering them in the appropriate direction.

In Arkansas, 77% of people removed from Medicaid lost their coverage for procedural reasons, while 23% were removed because they were deemed ineligible, according to KFF. More than a third of those losing coverage in Arkansas are children.

Meanwhile, about 71% of Arkansans whose coverage was renewed retained coverage through a federal rule that allows states to use past income records.

children without coverage

Of the 21 states that reported coverage losses by age group, 2.4 million or 40% of those delisted were children, according to KFF’s analysis.

Gonzalez Kansas ranks second among those 21 states in the proportion of children losing coverage, behind Texas at 61% (55%), followed by Idaho (48%), Missouri (47%), Alaska (43%) and Minnesota (42). ,

Of the 21 states, Massachusetts had the lowest proportion of children disenrolling at 18%, followed by California at 21%. Some states, such as North Carolina and Kentucky, are covering children with pending renewals for another year while the state works on rescheduling eligibility.

But experts like Wilson worry that a lack of communication from state Medicaid offices for the next year will create more confusion about coverage.

Many of them may not have had any communication with the Medicaid office in three or more years, he said. With a transient population, this will become even more of a problem when the eligibility rate setting period becomes too long.

Right now, some grassroots groups are relying on general outreach such as putting up flyers and setting up tables at community events.

Tupola, of the Utah Community Health Workers Association, said she wants state Medicaid offices to support grassroots workers like her organization, especially after national attention has focused on the benefits of grassroots vaccination campaigns during the pandemic.

“I think unless the numbers are high, people are dying, or people are losing coverage, we are not called to the table,” he said.

You need to bring us from the beginning.

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