By Hannah Recht, KFF Foundation-June 1st, 2023
More than 600,000 Americans have lost Medicaid coverage since pandemic protections ended on April 1st and a KFF Health News analysis of state data shows the vast majority were removed from state rolls for not completing paperwork.
Under normal circumstances, states review their Medicaid enrollment lists regularly to ensure every recipient qualifies for coverage. But because of a nationwide pause in those reviews during the pandemic, the health insurance program for low-income and disabled Americans kept people covered even if they no longer qualified.
Now, in what’s known as the Medicaid unwinding, states are combing through rolls and deciding who stays and who goes. People who are no longer eligible or don’t complete paperwork in time will be dropped.
The overwhelming majority of people who have lost coverage in most states were dropped because of technicalities, not because state officials determined they no longer meet Medicaid income limits. Four out of every five people dropped so far either never returned the paperwork or omitted required documents, according to a KFF Health News analysis of data from 11 states that provided details on recent cancellations. Now, lawmakers and advocates are expressing alarm over the volume of people losing coverage and, in some states, calling to pause the process.
The cancellations set in motion an avoidable revolving door. Some people dropped from Medicaid will have to forgo filling prescriptions and cancel doctor visits because they can’t afford care. Months down the line, after untreated chronic illnesses spiral out of control, they’ll end up in the emergency room where social workers will need to again help them join the program, he said.
Before the unwinding, more than 1 in 4 Americans — 93 million — were covered by Medicaid or CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, according to KFF Health News’ analysis of the latest enrollment data. Half of all children in the US are covered by the programs, which are administered by the individual states.
About 15 million people will be dropped over the next year as states review participants’ eligibility in monthly tranches.
KFF Health News is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF—an independent source of health policy research, polling, and journalism.