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Renewed Eligibility Checks Threaten to Leave Millions Without Medicaid

A pandemic relief agreement that suspended reviews is set to expire in April.

relates to Renewed Eligibility Checks Threaten to Leave Millions Without Medicaid
Illustration: Minet Kim for Bloomberg Businessweek

At the start of the pandemic, Congress sent extra money to states to bolster their Medicaid programs on the condition that they suspend eligibility reviews for the safety net insurance program. Low-income Americans, the thinking went, risked losing coverage because of bureaucratic snafus just when they needed it most. That agreement—which was extended eight times—is set to expire in April, threatening to leave millions of Americans uninsured. “There’s a high risk of people losing coverage, notwithstanding the fact that they’re likely to be eligible,” says Cindy Mann, a former Medicaid official who’s now a partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips in Washington.

Enrollment in Medicaid and the related Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) increased more than 15% from 2019 to mid-2021, to almost 84 million, federal data show. Anyone with coverage will face a renewal assessment to make sure they still meet the program’s income requirements and other rules, which vary by state. Verifying eligibility can be a slog in the best of times, when small discrepancies in a name or address can lead to a loss of coverage. Doing it en masse after a two-year suspension of reviews promises to be even more chaotic.