Eight months ago, Georgia started checking to see who could get Medicaid and Peachcare for Kids. Since then, more than 500,000 people have lost their health insurance. Reports from the state showed that by December, more than 503,500 people, or 41% of those trying to renew or apply, were no longer covered or didn’t qualify.
49,418 people were cut off just in December, and more than 6,800 didn’t meet the standards to begin with. In Georgia at that time, 42,476 people were waiting to hear back about their applications. Also, 128,071 people were waiting to see if their insurance would stay in effect, and 45,388 people had their insurance immediately renewed.
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The Georgia Department of Community Health released a report in mid-January about this process. It said that 14% of those waiting in December would keep their insurance, but 40% were already found to be ineligible because their situations changed or they didn’t respond to requests for more information.
The state also said that 35% of people who had deadlines in December were dropped from insurance plans because they didn’t have all the necessary paperwork or processes.
In terms of why, DCH said “the State has data that over 17,000 of the individuals who were procedurally terminated likely would no longer have been eligible due to several factors, including: increased income, changed household composition, aging out of coverage, and moving out of state.”
To qualify for Medicaid and PeachCare in Georgia, an individual must earn less than $36,013 annually before taxes, as stated on the benefits.gov website run by the U.S. Government.
For children under 19, the yearly income limit for a single person is $29,892 before taxes. This means the income should be at or below 205% of the federal poverty level, based on information from state authorities.
The government-run health insurance program is on track to return to roughly pre-pandemic levels
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) saw growth that had never been seen before. They reached a record 94 million participants because states were temporarily not allowed to take people out of the programs. That being said, since April of last year, states have been “unwinding,” which means taking more than 16 million people off of Medicaid and CHIP.
People whose incomes have gone up above the eligibility level are included in this reduction, as well as the millions of people who were kicked out for procedural reasons, like not responding to renewal notices or not turning in the necessary papers. Even with these people being kicked out, millions have either re-enrolled or joined the programs for the first time. This means that the net number of users has dropped by about 9.5 million since April of last year, when they were at their highest.
There has been a lot of activity in Medicaid registration because of the unwinding process. This is normal for the program, but it’s been made worse by the size and speed of the current changes. The Biden administration first thought that about 15 million people would lose their health insurance, with nearly half of those being due to problems with the process. However, real disenrollments are going up and could reach over 17 million.
Disenrollment rates vary a lot from one state to another
Even so, about two-thirds of the 48 million beneficiaries who have been looked at so far have had their coverage extended. The different disenrollment rates between states, according to the AJC, show how different state policies affect enrollment. For instance, Oregon was able to keep coverage for 75% of its beneficiaries, but Oklahoma had to drop 43% of its participants. In order to get enrollment levels back to where they were before the pandemic, states like Alabama have put in place plans for how to successfully tell current enrollees that they need to reapply.
The unwinding has effects that go beyond the numbers. Concerns are especially strong about how it will affect children, who have traditionally been able to get Medicaid even if their family made more money than adults. The Georgetown University Center for Children and Families said that 3.8 million children lost Medicaid coverage during the slowing down. This made worries about higher rates of lack of coverage among this vulnerable group even stronger.
It’s still not clear what effect the unwinding had on the general rate of people without health insurance, but a survey in Utah found that about 30% of those who were disenrolled were still without insurance afterward. Other people got coverage through their jobs or the Affordable Care Act marketplace. This situation underscores the challenges and uncertainties facing the U.S. healthcare system as it tries to balance fiscal responsibility with ensuring access to care for its most vulnerable populations.