Medicaid enrollment ballooned by 20 million people during the Covid-19 pandemic to nearly 84 million people. That was no fluke: with a declaration of a public health emergency, states we barred from removing people from the program. This is all about to change. The $1.7 trillion government spending bill passed in December reinstated states’ ability to kick people off Medicaid and in April of this year they’ll begin to do just that.
Analysts estimate that up to 18 million people (or 1 in 5 enrollees) will lose Medicaid coverage between this year and next and of those, 3.8 million will remain without health insurance. One public health emergency is about to replace another. Here’s what you need to know.
Why Are People Losing Medicaid Coverage?
In a given year, many people enroll in Medicaid, and just as many (or more) leave as their income or asset status changes. States regularly re-assess enrollees' Medicaid eligibility and if they discover that a person has run afoul of regulations, they are kicked out. This hasn’t been happening these last couple of years but the process is about to start back up.
While it may be true that anyone who doesn’t meet the eligibility requirements shouldn’t benefit from Medicaid coverage, the situation isn’t as straightforward as simply giving the boot to those who don’t belong. Hundreds of thousands lose coverage each year due to language barriers or administrative oversight. The country’s poorest are particularly vulnerable because, often, people of his demographic lack a reliable mailing address or ready access to the internet.
When Will the Cuts Begin?
The government spending bill stipulates that people may begin to lose Medicaid coverage as soon as April 1 (insert April Fool’s Day joke). Cuts won’t happen all at once, however. Most states will take an entire year to review their program but this does not necessarily mean that time is on your side.
If you currently depend on Medicaid for your healthcare coverage, you know that the program applies a 5-year look-back period to assess people’s Medicaid eligibility. This, in combination with the ongoing Medicaid expansion, means that only an experienced professional is in a position to determine whether you are at risk of losing coverage (and what you can do about it).