Advocates worry new law could lead to vulnerable Ohioans being kicked off Medicaid
The COVID-19 Public Health Emergency that the federal government declared in January 2020 is set to expire on Saturday. That’s likely to be extended till July.
But when it does expire, hundreds of thousands of Ohioans will lose that coverage. The federal government banned states from kicking people off Medicaid during the pandemic.
Former Ohio Medicaid director John Corlett is now with the Center for Community Solutions. In an interview for "The State of Ohio", Corlett estimates a big impact on Medicaid, which covers 3.3 million Ohioans now. There were 2.78 million Ohioans on Medicaid in February 2020.
“I think, you know, we're talking about probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 10% to 15%," Corlett said. "So it could be 200,000 or 300,000 people could lose their health care coverage and the majority of those are likely be children, because children make up the largest share of people enrolled in Medicaid.”
In the budget that passed last year, state lawmakers included an order that Medicaid hire an outside contractor to do an eligibility check on all recipients. And Corlett said the way that contractor, PCG, earns its money is to find savings for the state – and he notes people who are elderly and/or disabled are the most costly to Medicaid.
“And the group that they are sort of rewarded the most financially because the savings are the largest are aged and disabled people, disabled children. That's where the state spends the most money. That's where there could be the most savings," Corlett said. "And so it creates, I think, a strange incentive to sort of maybe try and push people off rather than figure out how do we keep people on.”
The budget also shortened the window for those redeterminations of eligibility from six months to three months. But those facing disenrollment have to be notified twice and can still appeal the decision.
And Corlett added that county Medicaid offices are already overwhelmed, with many new and inexperienced workers.
"I would imagine a large share of the people who are employed by these local agencies have never done a Medicaid redetermination before because they if they've started in the last two years, they've never done it before. So there's a learning curve for them," Corlett said.
And Corlett added that many offices are short-staffed, as they are having the same trouble attracting employees that other businesses are dealing with.