New state data shows more than 46,000 Hoosiers were unenrolled from Medicaid due to “procedural reasons” last month. An additional more than 6,000 Hoosiers were determined ineligible and transferred to marketplace insurance.
These numbers follow the end of the federal public health emergency. During that emergency, some Medicaid programs, including traditional Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program and the Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP), temporarily suspended traditional rules that required updated paperwork and documentation to remain eligible for coverage.
The emergency ended on April 1, beginning an effort to disenroll ineligible Hoosiers over the course of the next 12 months.
Tracey Hutchings-Goetz is with Hoosier Action, a grassroots organization dedicated to improving the lives of everyday Hoosiers. She said the numbers from this first state report are concerning.
“Of the people whose return redeterminations were processed in the past month, 45 percent of them lost coverage and the vast majority of those people lost coverage not because they're no longer eligible for Medicaid, but because the state wasn't able to get into contact with them,” she said. “Or maybe they made an error on their paperwork, or maybe the state made an error on their paperwork.”
Hutchings-Goetz said these disenrollment numbers will continue to rise over the next year and could affect vulnerable populations.
“Medicaid keeps our workforce healthy and keeps Hoosiers working in Indiana,” she said. “That's who we're really talking about. When we're talking about people losing health insurance, it's children, it's working families, and it's your grandma in a nursing home.”
Michele Holtkamp is the spokesperson for the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration. She said people may be unenrolled for reasons like failure to respond to state communication or not having updated information.
“We need members to provide us information about their income, their household, and their personal situations,” she said.
READ MORE: Toolkit, other resources help Medicaid recipients navigate end of federal public health emergency
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Holtkamp said the state has a “robust” auto-renewal system and is working hard to expand its outreach efforts to make sure people either remain eligible for Medicaid or transition smoothly to other coverage.
“We’re also launching a paid advertising campaign to increase awareness in addition to the thousands of mailings, text messages and phone calls that we are using to connect with members each and every month,” she said.
In addition to the almost 53,000 Hoosiers who were unenrolled, there are more than 39,000 Hoosiers still awaiting their renewal status.
Holtkamps said there are several reasons for this and a pending approval does not mean these people will automatically lose their coverage.
“Some of these are from people who submitted their information too close to the end of the month and the renewal packet was still being processed during our reporting period,” she said. “So those people could absolutely retain Medicaid coverage.”
Holtkamps said her agency is aware that Hoosiers may still be unaware that they have lost coverage despite existing marketing and contact tools. She said there is a 90-day grace period for those who are still eligible to regain coverage in these cases.
Hutchings-Goetz said Indiana enrollment data that is more reflective of demographic information could help both advocacy groups and the state with targeted outreach.
“If what we're seeing are a lot of kids being disenrolled, that's a different population, different messaging than if we're seeing a lot of adults on HIP who live in rural areas who are being disenrolled,” she said.
Holtkamp said the state is planning to take a deeper look into demographic information and release a dashboard with “demographic and geographic” data.
Hutchings-Goetz said outreach and messaging by health navigators, state agencies and advocacy groups will be necessary to facilitate a smooth transition for those getting off Medicaid.
“Medicaid covers over 2 million people in Indiana,” she said. “That's one in three of us. Of those people, the majority are children. And in fact, the majority in the state of Indiana of kids are on Medicaid. It's over 60 percent. So when we're talking about people losing health care coverage, people losing insurance, what that really means is a kid going without asthma medication or a grandma having to ration insulin.”
Holtkamp said the Medicaid unenrollment period is expected to continue until May 2024 and urges those on Medicaid to ensure all contact and other information is up-to-date.
Violet is our daily news reporter. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @ComberWilen.