When the coronavirus pandemic emerged in March 2020, the US government issued a requirement that states could no longer de-enroll 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.

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. According to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, about 3.7 million of the 5.2 million Texans enrolled in Medicaid will have their eligibility redetermined once the emergency ends. Ezreal Garcia, public information manager for the Community Health Network, which is a system of health clinics located in Galveston, Harris, and Brazoria counties, said clinic operations have been impacted by COVID-19.

“We continue to work with our patients to get them processed for recertification so that when the time comes, we can move on and process that information,” Garcia said.

The pandemic has also brought to light a debate that has been going on in Texas since 2010: Should the state expand Medicaid to cover more people? That debate will return when the state legislature convenes in January, and some local lawmakers have said they’re ready for change.

“We don’t have to go back to the pre-pandemic situation,” said state Rep. Ann Johnson, D-Houston.

Medicaid State

The public health emergency was still in place in June with an expiry date of July 15. The government 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 nonpartisan research institute that analyzes fiscal policy.

Since the emergency was declared, Medicaid enrollments have reached their highest level ever in Texas, reaching 5.3 million in March, up from 4.2 million in March 2020, according to HHSC. In the Bay Area, the number of registered people hovered around 680,000 in Harris County and 37,000 in Galveston County before the pandemic. Since then, Harris County listings have grown to 898,000 as of October 2021, the most recent confirmed data available, and Galveston County listings have grown to 49,000.