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Pandemic-era Medicaid coverage at risk for Ohio residents as eligibility changes take effect on April 1

Throughout the pandemic states have been required to keep people and families enrolled on Medicaid, even if their eligibility changes, that will change at the end of March.
Wake Forest School of Medicine
/
U.S. National Institutes of Health
Throughout the pandemic states have been required to keep people and families enrolled on Medicaid, even if their eligibility changes, that will change at the end of March.

In 2020, the Family's First coronavirus Response Act required states to allow people on Medicaid to stay enrolled, even if their eligibility changed through the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

But that requirement ends April 1. What’s at stake are two issues, states like Ohio will begin to remove Medicaid recipients who are no longer eligible — often referred to as unwinding — and hospitals and clinics will lose the extra revenue from Medicaid.

Trisha Linebaugh, the director of revenue cycle at Five Rivers Health Center, said the clinic is now racing to let everyone know, but that’s hard.

“We have a significant number of patients who lack stable housing. And so if they're not coming in our doors this month or next month to hear us, to try to advocate and encourage them to be proactive, then we're probably going to catch them after that deadline.” Linebaugh said.

Linebaugh explained it’s not only a challenge to reach some patients, but simple mistakes in the paperwork can also lead to patients losing Medicaid eligibility.

Additionally, many government agencies still face staffing shortages and may be overwhelmed by their workloads.

Linebaugh said about 68% of the clinic's patients are on Medicaid and fears people will be reluctant to come if they lose coverage.

“People will have reluctance to seek care even when they need it. If they don't feel like they have coverage or they won't be seen because they don't have coverage,” Linebaugh said. “So it's important to, you know, to let people know that there are places that you can go that will work with you.”

Ohio Department of Medicaid Director, Maureen Corcoran, said in a statement the agency is working to let people know about the changes to the program.

“Our goals are to ensure that Medicaid eligible Ohioans will have the tools they need to maintain their healthcare coverage and not risk a gap in service, and that Ohioans no longer eligible for Medicaid can smoothly transition to other affordable healthcare options.” Corcoran said.

The department of Medicaid has a dedicated webpage to submit a renewal online.

The state is also sending renewal packets by mail that need to be submitted by March 31. After that, anyone who is no longer eligible will lose their coverage.

Ohio’s unwinding will occur over a 12-month period of time.

Although some renewals will be automatic based on data comparisons while other members will receive the usual eligibility packet and work with their county department of job and family services to complete it manually, according to the department of Medicaid.

People who are no longer eligible are encouraged to reach out to their county agency to seek more affordable health insurance options.

Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. 

Alejandro Figueroa covers food insecurity and the business of food for WYSO through Report for America — a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Alejandro particularly covers the lack of access to healthy and affordable food in Southwest Ohio communities, and what local government and nonprofits are doing to address it. He also covers rural and urban farming