CHARLESTON — With the federal public health emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic set to end later this year, West Virginia health officials say they’ll assess the eligibility of the more than 600,000 people on the state’s Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program rolls.
Since March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic started, the federal government has required that state Medicaid programs provide continuous coverage for them to receive enhanced funding. That means no one has been removed from the programs, even though they might be no longer eligible or they didn’t return paperwork needed to continue coverage.
During those three years, the number of people covered by West Virginia’s Medicaid and CHIP programs grew 30% — from 504,760 in March 2020 to 656,269 in December 2022, according to a news release from the Department of Health and Human Resources.
Continuous coverage ends in April. The federal emergency declaration for the pandemic ends May 11.
Earlier this month, the state Bureau for Medical Services began mailing renewal letters to Medicaid and CHIP recipients. People who fail to return the letters and those who return them but do not qualify will be removed from the programs, said Cindy Bean, commissioner of the Bureau of Medical Services.
The letters will be sent over the course of a year, Bean said.
Officials say they expect state Medicaid enrollment to decline by between 91,212 and 134,414 people, and CHIP enrollment to decline by between 2,184 and 3,494 people.
Nationwide, the Urban Institute estimated that 18 million people would lose Medicaid coverage over the next 14 months after the public health emergency ends. Of those, the organization found, 3.8 million people would be uninsured, and 9.5 million people would enroll in employer-sponsored insurance or transition to employer-sponsored insurance as their only coverage after they were enrolled in both employer-sponsored insurance and Medicaid sometime during the public health emergency.
Bean said the bureau anticipates that some recipients might earn too much money now, have moved out of state or gotten onto private insurance.
“There might be several people in those areas that will roll off,” she said. “Because what we were seeing prior to the pandemic, we were seeing our numbers decreasing.”
Medicaid and CHIP eligibility depends on income and other factors.
Bean said many recipients have continued to send in their renewal letters each year since 2020, despite there being no consequences for failing to do so. About 200,000 recipients haven’t sent the bureau any correspondence since then, she said.
For that reason, the bureau also is asking people to update their addresses and contact information.
“The most important thing is, for people that do qualify for Medicaid, we want you to stay on the rolls,” Bean said. “We want to make sure that we get a hold of you and you have an opportunity to continue your health coverage.”
Bean said the Bureau for Medical Services has launched a communication campaign, including via social media and posters in doctors’ offices and pharmacies, and engaged managed care organizations to encourage Medicaid recipients not to ignore the letter the agency sends.
“Definitely, when you receive your renewal in the mail sometime this year, pay attention, send that information back,” Bean said. “If you know you have moved, or you’ve changed addresses in the last three years, and you’ve not given us updated information, please use one of the modes to either email us, call us, go into the portal yourself and change it and get us the up-to-date information so we can make sure that letter gets to you.”
To update contact information, people may send an email to email@example.com, go online at wvpath.wv.gov or call the Department of Health and Human Resources’ Customer Service Center, at 1-877-716-1212.
People who are not eligible for Medicaid or CHIP, or who already have ended coverage may contact the WV Navigator program, at 304-356-5834 or acanavigator.com/wv/home, for assistance in enrolling in a federal marketplace health insurance plan.
Lori Kersey covers Charleston and Kanawha County for HD Media. She can be reached at 304-348-1240 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @LoriKerseyWV on Twitter.
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