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Thousands of Illinois residents get kicked off Medicaid plans

by jwayne810, licensed under CC BY 2.0

More than 47,000 Illinois residents have been kicked off their Medicaid insurance plans as of Aug. 1 – that’s nearly a quarter of the population that was up for renewal starting May 1. According to data from the state department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), most of them were dropped because they didn’t submit their eligibility information on time.

Medicaid is a government-funded, public health insurance program for qualifying, low-income people. The state had begun asking residents to prove their eligibility June 1, the first time since the federal government suspended that requirement in March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leading up to the June 1 deadline, state officials, healthcare providers and advocacy groups have been working to get the word out about the post-COVID change. HFS kicked off a “Ready to Renew” outreach campaign in March of this year, which included paid advertisements in print and on broadcast channels, as well as an online “toolkit” available in multiple languages.

And the Illinois Association of Medicaid Health Plans has been working with insurance providers to send patients text alerts, emails, mailers, knocking on their doors and anything else they can think of, according to CEO Samantha Olds Frey. She says while they were able to get about 75 percent of recipients to re-enroll on time, that 47,000 figure is still too high.

“We could do better,” Olds Frey said. “What's driving the percentage of members that aren't returning paperwork? That's a gap I think we all agree we can close.”

Olds Frey says they are waiting on HFS to break down the number of dropped recipients by age, sex and geographical location, and will do more targeted outreach based on that.

The Chicago-based Shriver Center on Poverty Law has been working with state-employed enrollment assisters to make sure people get their plans reinstated. These assisters work out of hospitals and clinics as case managers for Medicaid recipients.

Shriver Center Senior Director of Policy Stephanie Altman says her group trains the assisters on how to help people who have lost coverage reinstate their plans right away.

“I just had a couple of people today who contacted me, and they both faxed in their forms. And they had a confirmation from the fax receipt that they had done it, but they still received a letter that they were terminated,” Altman said.

Medicaid renewals work on a rolling basis, with deadlines occurring the first of every month throughout the year. However, recipients do get a 90-day grace period after their deadline to submit their information.

In an email, HFS spokesperson Jamie Munks said the state is still able to reinstate a person’s coverage if all the information is received within that grace period. And if they miss the grace period, recipients will not be left completely without insurance.

“Those who are no longer eligible for Medicaid coverage will be provided with information about finding and enrolling in alternative coverage,” Munks wrote.

Residents can visit Get Covered Illinois, which has information on how to find enrollment assisters and links to the Affordable Care Act marketplace, a website run by the federal government where residents can access and enroll in different health insurance plans.

State officials are also encouraging recipients to visit abe.illinois.gov, set up an account and renew their plans online.

Mawa is a statehouse reporter for WBEZ and Illinois Public Radio.