Following an informational campaign urging thousands of Marylanders to re-enroll in Medicaid, the Maryland Department of Health released data showing that more than 76,000 people were able to continue federal health care coverage, while 34,600 were disenrolled in the program, during a process referred to as “Medicaid unwinding.”
To assist low-income people during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, states were prohibited from rolling people off Medicaid, a federal program for low-income individuals and families to receive health insurance funded by federal and state dollars.
This means that people did not have to re-enroll each year to ensure their coverage continued during the global health crisis.
But this year, Medicaid renewal is not automatic, and the Maryland Department of Health has launched the “Medicaid Check-in” campaign in an effort to remind residents to reenroll before they lose coverage.
In April, the Department of Health announced an informational media campaign to encourage residents on Medicaid to update their contact information so that they can more easily reapply for federal health care coverage.
Medicaid reevaluations and disenrollments will occur monthly to work through the 1.8 million Marylanders up for reconsideration. The first so-called “cohort” of Medicaid reconsiderations ended on May 31.
Last week, the Department of Health released data on how many people maintained coverage or lost it in the first cohort.
According to the report, the first cohort consisted of 119,803 people. As of Friday, there were still 9,024 people in Cohort 1 with applications pending review.
Of that number, 76,104 applied for reconsiderations and will continue to receive coverage under Medicaid. That is 63.5% of people within the first cohort.
That said, there were 34,675 people who were disenrolled from Medicaid coverage as of May 31st, or 28.9% of the first cohort.
Of that number, 10,032 applications were deemed ineligible for coverage under Medicaid, and thus “transferred to the marketplace” for health care coverage, though they may still be eligible for coverage through other programs, such as Medicare for people aged 65 and older.
The remaining 24,643 Marylanders were disenrolled from Medicaid because they did not finish or did not submit an application in time and lost Medicaid coverage.
Even still, those people still have 120 days to submit applications for reconsideration, according to Chase Cook, acting communication director for the Department of Health. If they are still eligible, Medicaid coverage would be reinstated and even back-dated to when they lost coverage.
“To minimize procedural disenrollments, the most important things is for Marylanders to ‘check in’ and update their contact information so that they can be ready to renew when it is their time,” Cook said. Marylanders wishing to update their contact information can do so at the Maryland Health Connection website, over the phone or in person at their local health department.
Maryland health officials said previously that data over time will be used to identify how the department can better reach out to those needing to re-enroll in Medicaid.
“This is the first month of data and MDH will be watching numbers closely month-over-month to see if there are trends in disenrollments for procedural reasons and will calibrate outreach as appropriate,” Cook said in an email.
Reevaluations for Cohort 2 began on May 1 and disenrollments for this group will occur on June 30. The Department of Health already began contacting people in Cohort 3 as of June 1, according to Cook.
Each state is tasked with figuring out how to handle the Medicaid unwinding process, and other states begin rolling people off Medicaid as early as April.
Stateline, an affiliate with States Newsroom, reported that more than 500,000 people lost Medicaid as of May in 11 different states across the United States. The data comes from health policy researcher KFF, which estimates that between 8 million and 24 million people will lose Medicaid coverage by 2024.
Vincent DeMarco, president of Maryland Health Care for All, said that Medicaid unwinding and the reconsideration period is “not an easy process” and noted that some people may lose coverage even if they are still eligible.
“Despite the media campaign, people may just not know about it,” Demarco said. “And remember, a lot of these folks are in situations where they’re struggling with paying the rent and making it through day-by-day on their incomes … even if they know, they just find it hard to go through the process.”
But he is encouraged by the first round of data from the state’s Medicaid Check-in campaign.
“We think that the numbers are really good — that 76,000 people have had their coverage extended,” DeMarco said.
“The health department is doing everything it can to make sure that those who are eligible for health care coverage continue to be covered, despite the end of the public health emergency auto enrollment requirement,” he added.
This article was initially published on MarylandMatters.org and is republished with permission.