End of national public health emergency may create an unintentional emergency

By Dennis Archambault

One of the initiatives in the COVID relief package – expanded Medicaid coverage — was intended to assure that millions of lower income Americans whose employment status was reduced or eliminated wouldn’t lose access to health care services. While many of those have regained employment – some at lesser income and benefit offerings – others have remained unemployed. They may have employment levels that place them at risk of denial by state Medicaid programs.

An estimated 16 million people could be removed from Medicaid in April when the public health emergency ends. Ironically, the official end of the COVID public health emergency may lead to another emergency for those who lose Medicaid coverage aren’t reinstated. State Medicaid administrators will need to reevaluate each Medicaid beneficiary. People who earn too much or don’t provide the information the state requires to verify their income or residency, could lose their coverage.

The Biden Administration, in 2020, announced that “The COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause significant risk to the public health and safety of the nation. For this reason, the national emergency declared on March 13, 2020… must continue in effect beyond March 1, 2022.” Secretary of Health and Human Services Becerra announced earlier this winter that the national emergency will end on April 16, but he has the option to extend it for 90 days.
States have 90 days to work through this process, before funds appropriated by Congress will expire. Medicaid enrollment counselors will be busy communicating this to residents in low-income communities this summer. While income will be a factor in disqualifying many, recipients who have relocated and not informed the state will not receive the notification to reapply. In which case they will be disqualified.

“Groups that advocate for the needs of low-income Americans say the renewal tidal wave will require outreach rivaling that of almost a decade ago, when the ACA (Affordable Care Act) expanded Medicaid and created new private insurance options for millions of people,” according to a recent Kaiser Health News analysis. Non-English-speaking residents will be at even greater risk.

Dennis Archambault is vice president of Public Affairs for Authority Health.

Tags: , , , , ,