Millions of people who enrolled in Medicaid during the Covid-19 pandemic may lose coverage on April 1 if the newly-released $1.7 trillion spending package passes in Congress.
The legislation will remove a requirement of the Covid-19 public health emergency that has prohibited states from removing people from Medicaid. The Biden administration has been under increasing pressure to declare the health emergency over, including from 25 Republican governors asking the president to end it in a letter, which cited growing concerns about the substantial Medicaid enrollment.
“This is a positive for states in terms of planning; however, this will come at the cost of some individuals losing their health care,” said the principal at health consulting firm Avalere, Massey Whorley.
Millions of enrollees are expected to be bumped from the Medicaid program, which grants health care coverage across the country to low-income people. Under the new proposal, the federal government will also stop extra funds given to individual states for added enrollees over the next year.
Advocates have voiced concerns about how states should notify enrollees if they are being removed from the program and the possible options they may have.
The change may be particularly challenging for many of the country’s poorest people, who may not have access to the internet, phone services, or a stable home address to check their status. If it is passed, the spending packages will allow states to begin kicking people off the program as early as April; however, they must notify enrollees before removing them.
Individuals on Medicaid should ensure they have up-to-date contact information on their accounts and check their mail often to keep an eye on their eligibility as the April 1 date draws closer, according to the director of Medicaid at Kaiser Family Foundation, Robin Rudowitz.
“There is likely to be people who fall through the cracks,” said Rudowitz.
Move will free up additional funds for health insurance coverage for low-income children
The change will free up additional funds to pay for more stable health insurance coverage for children in low-income households by requiring states to keep children on Medicaid for at least a year once enrolled.
A push to require states to continue Medicaid to new mothers for a year after giving birth did not make the spending package. Washington, D.C., and 27 states already extend coverage for postpartum mothers for 12 months.
The package will also extend the telehealth flexibilities introduced during the pandemic and prompt healthcare systems around the country to overhaul their approach and offer care via computer or smartphone more frequently.
Under the spending package, restrictions that tightly governed telehealth under the Medicare umbrella will continue to be loosened through the end of 2024. That would continue to give Congress additional time to study telehealth and how widespread fraud is affecting the program, according to Washington think tank Bipartisan Policy Center’s Andrew Hu, who has studied the pandemic use of telehealth.
“We can get some more time to assess where the benefits are with telehealth,” said Hu.
The Senate is expected to vote on the spending bill soon, and Democrats are trying to gain support from at least 10 Republican senators to pass the measure before forwarding it to the House for consideration.