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Illinois agencies prepare to help uninsured as Medicaid pandemic protections end

You can check HealthCare.gov for health insurance options and prices.
Andrew Harnik
You can check HealthCare.gov for health insurance options and prices.

More than 300,000 Illinois residents could lose health insurance coverage after Medicaid pandemic protections end on March 31.

Medicaid continuous coverage was established by congress during the COVID-19 pandemic to allow people to remain on Medicaid even if they may have become ineligible. The plan also gave states additional funds to keep people on their Medicaid plans.

The December omnibus bill passed by Congress set a sunset date for the continuous coverage.

Illinois and other states will begin sending redetermination letters to recipients informing them if their coverage will continue. Letters will be sent 30 days before a person's renewal date.

The first letter's will go out in May for recipients with a June renewal date.

Sergio Obregon, special assistant to the director at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, said this will happen over the next year. Not everyone who is ineligible will lose coverage immediately.

“We can say for certain that there will be no, what's called a coverage cliff where everybody loses coverage at once,” Obregon said. “We're doing a lot of work in terms of minimizing the number of individuals who would lose coverage.”

Obregon said recipients should update their addresses so there is no delay in receiving their letter and pursuing next steps if they are no longer eligible.

If recipients are no longer eligible for Medicaid or if they do not respond to their redetermination letter, they will receive information on how to find insurance elsewhere, such as through the Affordable Care Act.

ACA Open enrollment ended in January, but Laura Pellikan, executive director of Get Covered Illinois, said there will be a special enrollment period for people who lose their Medicaid coverage to sign up for a health insurance plan.

Medicaid recipients will have 60 days after they received their redetermination letter to sign up for a new plan through the Illinois ACA portal.

“We're encouraging people that as soon as they find out if they've been dropped from coverage, that they look into the ACA marketplace,” Pellikan said. “They can contact them before they actually lose their coverage.”

Pellikan said people can be matched with a navigator while signing up. The navigator will help them find a plan in their area and which fits their needs.

Navigators can also help people find out if they qualify for a premium tax credit, which can lower monthly payments. Tax credits are based on income and household size.

The Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law August 2022, extended tax credit expansions from the pandemic, keeping prices lower through 2025.

The Illinois Department of Insurance recently announced a 6% increase in ACA enrollment in Illinois from last year.

Pellikan said the lower costs of insurance helped more people afford coverage, as well as outreach programs to help people find the best plan for them. She said they are predicting the number of people enrolled will continue to rise during the special enrollment period.