Millions of people in the United States are at risk of losing their Medicaid coverage after a pandemic-era rule that protected them from losing it expires on April 1st.
What Should You Know About Medicaid?
Medicaid is a government-run program that provides free health insurance to people with low incomes. Normally, Medicaid recipients must renew their coverage every year, and if they no longer meet the eligibility requirements, they lose their coverage. However, last year, lawmakers passed a rule that kept people enrolled in the program automatically, even if they no longer qualified.
According to KFF, a nonprofit research organization formerly known as the Kaiser Family Foundation, up to 15 million people are at risk of losing their health insurance as a result of this rule expiring. Some 95 million people in the U.S. are currently enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP, which provides low-cost coverage to children, Yahoo News reports.
Even a small coverage gap can be “devastating,” says Jennifer Tolbert, the associate director for the program on Medicaid and the uninsured at KFF. Some may not be able to access their monthly medications, while others may not be able to get treatment for their chronic physical or mental health conditions.
What Will Happen to Medicaid Beginning April 1?
In a published article in NBC News, beginning on April 1st, states will be allowed to “unwind” the rule, which means they will resume their annual Medicaid renewals and unenroll people who are no longer eligible for coverage. Medicaid eligibility varies by state, but generally, people can qualify if their income falls below a certain threshold.
During the 12-month period, which is expected to last about a year, 5 million to 15 million people are expected to lose Medicaid coverage. People whose income has increased are expected to be among those who lose coverage. However, people who are still eligible but did not provide information that their state needs to confirm, like income or current residence, are also expected to lose their insurance.
The continuous Medicaid coverage requirement was originally tied to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, which will expire in May. The unwinding period is expected to last about 12 months, as states check everyone’s eligibility and send renewal and termination notices, although some states will do these checks faster than others.
Despite the early start, no states are allowed to unenroll recipients until April 1. During this time, states must give enrollees at least 30 days to respond to a renewal notice and another 10 days following a notice of termination of coverage.