Why are Utahns losing their Medicaid insurance?

“Most closures happen simply because we don’t get any response at all,” the Department of Workforce Services tells lawmakers.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Children help make signs in the Capitol rotunda to advocate for the protection of Proposition 3, the passed Medicaid extension law, on Monday, January 28, 2019, the first day of the Legislative Session voters. About 200,000 Utahns are no longer eligible for the insurance program as federal emergency funding for COVID-19 is removed.

Stephanie Burdick’s voice broke as she addressed lawmakers Tuesday afternoon to comment on Utah’s Medicaid resolution process.

“Medicaid members include the waitress’ children at your favorite restaurant,” Burdick said. “The children of the caregiver at your child’s school. The grocery delivery driver who gets up at 4 a.m. and proudly goes about her work so she’s ready when her kid leaves school.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government required states to allow low-income people to continue enrolling in the health insurance program. But now that the public health emergency is over, Utah and states across the country must screen and delist individuals who are no longer eligible.

As of March 2023, more than 500,000 people in Utah were enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance program.

“We have 200,000 more people on Medicaid than ever before in the state of Utah and the unemployment rate is 2.4%,” Kevin Burt, associate director of Workforce Services, told the Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee. “So I want to emphasize that more people are receiving Medicaid than there should be.”

By March 2024, the state must complete the process of verifying the eligibility of more than half a million Utahans. In April and May, 74,000 Utah residents lost their insurance, The Tribune previously reported.

However, some of the people who lose their health insurance through the review process are still eligible.

“Most closures happen simply because we don’t get a response at all,” Burt said. “And unfortunately, it’s a closure notice that triggers the applicant to take action, and that has actually proven to be one of the most effective methods, but it’s certainly not the ideal way to manage the program.”

Senator Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, noted that his son recently lost his Medicaid coverage and gave up after repeated calls and hours of waiting.

“It’s clear that he was kicked out because of some procedural matter,” said Anderegg, “but he can’t talk to anyone to find out.”

He asked Burt and Utah’s Medicaid director, Jennifer Strohecker, if there was a staffing shortage.

“That’s two to three times the workload that we typically get from the Eligibility Service department,” Burt replied. “So the question is, did we get two or three times the money to be able to cover that? The answer is no. We have therefore experienced some disruptions to our level of service.”

Strohecker said Medicaid administrators are trying to improve the process by automating certain parts of the review, investigating cases where recipients have lost coverage for “procedural” reasons, and working with stakeholders. Burt advised Medicaid recipients to keep a close eye on the notifications.

Resources for Medicaid Patients

An article with advice on staying on Medicaid can be found here.

The Utah Health Policy Project’s Take Care Utah program also offers help for those navigating the system.

Justin Scaccy

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