Imminent end to Medicaid opt-out freeze sounds alarm

When the coronavirus pandemic emerged in March 2020, the US government issued a requirement that states could no longer deport people from Medicaid during the public health emergency. The goal was to prevent people on Medicaid — a government-run health care policy — from going without insurance on short notice.

That requirement is still in effect two years later, but health care advocates in Texas and Houston said they’re worried about what might happen when it ends and millions of people see their safety nets. safety at risk.

In September, the Urban Institute, a Washington, DC-based think tank, estimated that up to 1.3 million Texans could be deemed ineligible for Medicaid once the public health emergency ends. About 3.7 million of the 5.3 million Texans enrolled in Medicaid will have their eligibility redetermined after the emergency ends, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. About 73.2% of Texas Medicaid enrollees are children, according to the latest HHSC data.

“Our main concern is that you are looking at a large number of claims to submit, and that will take a long time,” said Brian Sasser, director of communications for the Houston-based Episcopal Health Foundation, which works with health care. nonprofit organizations across Texas.

The pandemic has also highlighted a debate that has been going on since 2010: should the state expand Medicaid to cover more people. •• State Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, said he doesn’t plan to focus on Medicaid in the next legislative session because lawmakers have already moved to provide alternatives for Texans, such as increased local health care funding, expanded private sector insurance options and affordable additional prescription options.

“The federal government has failed to maintain funding levels in states, which had previously expanded Medicare, creating economic challenges for those states and their citizens,” Bell said.

Medicaid State

The public health emergency was still in place in June with an expiry date of July 15. However, the government also requires 60 days notice before Congress can authorize the emergency to expire. That notice was not given on May 15, which means the emergency should be extended until October, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a group that analyzes federal and state fiscal policies.

In Montgomery County, the number of people enrolled in Medicaid hovered around 58,000 before the pandemic in 2019. Since then, county rosters have grown to 83,859 according to the most recent confirmed data from October. In Harris County, registrations rose from about 680,000 in 2019 to 808,567 in October.

At the end of the public health emergency, a portion of Medicaid enrollees will have their coverage automatically renewed if they are found eligible. There will also be a roll-out period of up to 12 months during which states must work with those who were not automatically reinstated to help them maintain coverage if they are still eligible.

For states to succeed, they will need to focus on streamlining the application renewal process and communicating effectively with enrollees, said Farah Erzouki, senior policy analyst at CBPP.

“These steps will be key to making sure people can be reached, that they know what changes are coming, and that they know what they need to do to maintain their coverage,” Erzouki said during a briefing. release on May 18.

Kayli Thompson contributed to this report.

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