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As Many As 300,000 North Carolinians Could Lose Medicaid Insurance Within The Next 18 Months

Source: NC Policy Watch

Less than 18 months from now, as many as 300,000 North Carolinians could be without their government health insurance, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services estimates.

According to NC Policy Watch, NCDHHS is getting ready to check Medicaid recipients’ family, health and income information in order to make sure they are still eligible to receive Medicaid. States checking on Medicaid recipients’ eligibility is nothing new, but it’s a big change from how it’s worked for nearly the last three years.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, those receiving Medicaid had to be recertified every year to make sure they were still eligible. People who use Medicaid can lose and gain coverage if their income or family situation changes.

Beginning in March 2020, states were prohibited from kicking people off Medicaid due to the pandemic. Now, states are being required to check enrollees’ Medicaid eligibility for coverage beginning in April. The aim of this check is to remove those who no longer qualify over the next year.

The federal government pays the majority of the cost for Medicaid and after telling states to stop the recertification process during the pandemic, it provided states with more money in order to keep people insured.

States that have expanded Medicaid, North Carolina not being one of them, will not have the problems that North Carolina is set to have soon.

State health officials told a legislative committee last year that recertification would be a huge task and many of those people who would lose their insurance would most likely qualify for Medicaid if North Carolina expanded the program, according to NC Policy Watch.

North Carolina Republican lawmakers began moving toward accepting the idea of expanding Medicaid in 2022, which would have made close to 600,000 people eligible for the insurance – many of whom are low-income adults without dependent children. Democrats have long called for and been in favor of expanding the government insurance program.

Medicaid expansion legislation stalled last year, but leaders in both parties have said that they are open to discussing legislation again and attempting to pass it.

As of January, North Carolina has 2.9 million people enrolled in Medicaid, compared to 2.7 million in March 2020.

With nearly three million people to verify, many are worried that people will lose their insurance by mistake, NC Policy Watch reported. The task of renewing all enrollees will include having to find people who have moved since the pandemic began.

“There’s a big reason for concern about that,” Doug Sea, a senior litigation attorney at the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, told NC Policy Watch. “The word needs to get out.”  

The advocacy center has discussed hosting a webinar for health care providers “who need to understand what’s happening, what the protections are and where to send people,” Sea said. Medicaid enrollees can also turn to the NC Medicaid Ombudsman for information.

Information provided to NC Policy Watch by Sea highlights multiple groups of people who are most likely to lose Medicaid coverage: those for whom social services departments don’t have accurate addresses; parents or caregivers who no longer have children younger than 18; parents and caregivers whose incomes have increased; and youth who turned 19 or 20 during the public health emergency.

NCDHHS sent a statement to NC Policy Watch regarding the recertification process:

NCDHHS has been preparing for the massive task of requalifying Medicaid beneficiaries for coverage. We recognize people will lose coverage in this process, but our goal is to ensure people eligible for Medicaid do not lose coverage and those no longer eligible are transitioned smoothly to affordable health plans. We are working with internal teams and county DSS partners to facilitate a fair plan for moving forward and addressing needs that arise. We anticipate submitting the federally required planning documents to CMS by Feb. 15, 2023.

The time to expand Medicaid in North Carolina has come, but it has not gone – yet. Republicans need to take the health of North Carolinians seriously and work with Democrats to pass legislation expanding Medicaid and providing 600,000 residents with health insurance.

Read more from NC Policy Watch here

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