WASHINGTON (AP) — Millions of people who enrolled in Medicaid during the COVID-19 pandemic could lose their coverage on April 1 if Congress approves the $1.7 trillion spending package unveiled Tuesday.
The legislation ends a requirement of the COVID-19 public health emergency that prohibited states from taking people off Medicaid. The Biden administration is under increasing pressure to declare the public health emergency over, with 25 Republican governors asking the president in a letter Monday to end it, citing growing concerns over the bloated Medicaid bill. enrollment was mentioned.
“This is positive for states in terms of planning, but at the cost of some individuals losing their health care,” said Massey Whorley, director of health consulting firm Avalere.
Millions are expected to be ejected from the program, which provides health care coverage to nearly 80 million low-income people across the country. The federal government will also phase out the additional funds given to states for the added enrollees in the coming year under the proposal.
Many will qualify for health insurance through employers, the Affordable Care Act or, in the case of children, the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Advocates have expressed concern about how states will notify enrollees if they are kicked off the program and what their options are. The effort will be particularly challenging for some of the country’s poorest people, who may not have a stable home address or access to the internet or phone services to check their status. If passed, the spending package would allow states to kick people off the program as early as April, but they must first notify enrollees.
People taking Medicaid should make sure their contact information on their accounts is up to date and check email regularly to monitor eligibility as the April 1 date approaches, Robin said Rudowitz, the director of Medicaid at Kaiser Family Foundation.
“People will probably fall through the cracks,” she said.
However, the move will free up additional funds to pay for more stable health insurance for children in low-income households by requiring states to keep those children on Medicaid for at least a year after enrolling. A push requires states to extend Medicaid to new mothers for a 12-month period after giving birth, but failed to make cuts. The District of Columbia and 27 states are currently extending coverage for postpartum mothers for a 12-month period.
The spending package also extends the telehealth flexibility introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic and led healthcare systems across the country to rethink their approach to more often providing care by smartphone or computer.
Under the proposal, restrictions that once tightly regulated telehealth under Medicare will remain relaxed until the end of 2024.
That gives Congress more time to study telehealth and how widespread fraud is in this program, said Andrew Hu of the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank that has studied telehealth use during the pandemic.
“We could have a little more time to assess where the benefits of telehealth are,” Hu said.
The Senate is expected to vote on the spending bill first, and Democrats are seeking the support of at least 10 Republican senators to pass the measure before sending it to the House for consideration.