Roughly 250,000 Floridians have lost their Medicaid health coverage since mid-April when the state began reviewing the eligibility of more than 5 million people on its rolls, a figure that swelled in the pandemic.
More are expected to lose coverage as the Florida Department of Children and Families continues the review process, which was paused when the federal government asked states to suspend yearly checks on who qualified. More than 1.7 million people got on Medicaid during the pandemic.
Health care advocates have warned about the adverse impacts of dropping children, parents and young adults from the federal health insurance program for the nation’s poorest residents. State officials said earlier this year they were aware of at least 900,000 individuals who would no longer qualify once the public health emergency ends. Another 850,000 recipients had not responded to requests for information to determine their eligibility.
Here’s five things to know about the Medicaid “unwinding.”
Why is this happening?
Early on in the pandemic, the federal government encouraged states to provide continuous Medicaid coverage, keeping people enrolled even when they got pay raises or new jobs that would have made them ineligible. In return, the federal government paid states a higher share of medical bills.
With the public health emergency over, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has given states up to a year to transition back to normal operations, which includes reviewing if someone earns too much to qualify for the insurance.
How is the state notifying people on Medicaid?
People are being notified by mail, email, texts, phone calls and through social media and news coverage, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families. The department published a plan earlier this year saying it would hire 137 call center agents to deal with an anticipated surge in calls.
Medicaid recipients should log onto their myaccess account to ensure their contact information is up to date. They also should look for an email, text messages or an envelope with a yellow stripe seeking information that will be sent 45 days before a recipient’s renewal date.
In some cases, the department has sent “possibly more than five text messages and emails,” to recipients, Mallory McManus, the department’s deputy chief of staff, said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. The agency has also asked that advocates and partners share their messaging.
Those whom the state cannot renew because of outdated income information or because they are deemed ineligible will receive a 45-day notice by letter or email. They will then have 90 days to reapply if they believe they still qualify.
How has this impacted Medicaid recipients?
There has been a significant uptick in calls and visits to navigators at the Family Healthcare Foundation, with multiple different messages from the department confusing some recipients, said Katie Roders Turner, the nonprofit’s executive director.
She said she fears that many of the 250,000 already terminated may not know they have lost their health coverage until they go to a clinic or hospital.
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“We knew there would be an impact and two weeks in, it is significant,” she said. “We hope that it improves and that the state’s plan will connect families to health care coverage if they are no longer eligible for Medicaid.”
What are my options if I lose Medicaid?
Children on Medicaid may be able to get insurance through Florida KidCare. Other options include the Medically Needy Program, federally subsidized health centers that treat low-income patients.
Also, there’s a health care program for low-income residents in Hillsborough County that is funded through a sales tax. Some individuals may be able to get insurance through policies offered in the federal marketplace as part of the Affordable Care Act.
Where can I get help or more information?
Residents can log onto the Florida Department of Children and Families website or call the department at 850-300-4323.
Help is available locally through a collaboration between the Family Healthcare Foundation, BayCare Health System, Tampa General Hospital, Evara Health and Premier Community Healthcare Group, which is providing 35 navigators to assist residents worried about losing coverage. The service is free and confidential. Residents can reach out online or by calling 813-995-7005.
“We know this is happening for the foreseeable future,” said Roders Turner. “The foundation wants people to know there are likely options for people in Tampa Bay to get connected to health care services.”