Medicaid rolls reduced by 82,279 in July; total disenrolled more than 300,000

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 917 views 

Arkansas’ Medicaid rolls fell by more than 82,000 in July, according to new figures released by the state Department of Human Services.

Arkansas is unwinding, or redetermining, Medicaid eligibility for patients as part of the ending of the federal COVID-19 pandemic. There was a continuous enrollment requirement during the crisis that prevented DHS from removing most ineligible individuals from Medicaid. State law requires the unwinding process be completed in six months.

In its fourth month of redetermination, DHS officials said 82,279 Arkansans had their Medicaid cases closed – a number that includes those added to the rolls during the public health emergency and regular renewals. In July, more than 50,000 cases were renewed after eligibility was confirmed, DHS said.

As of Aug. 1, total Medicaid enrollment was 915,926, including 398,726 children, 254,200 on ARHOME, and 263,000 other adults. Since redetermination began on April 1, there have been more than 300,000 removed from Medicaid rolls.

“We are now more than halfway through our six-month unwinding process, and during this time our dedicated county operations team has confirmed eligibility for more than 200,000 Arkansans,” said Arkansas Department of Human Services Secretary Kristi Putnam. “This is exactly how the system is supposed to work: we are ensuring that benefits remain available for Arkansans who truly need them, and we are also working to make sure those who no longer qualify know about available options for health care coverage. As we move forward, we remain committed to completing this redetermination process in a way that is both efficient and fair.”

DHS provided a breakdown of reasons for case closures in July. 36,751 cases of the 82,279 disenrolled were dropped due to a lack of returning a renewal form. Another 19,149 cases failed to return requested information. 9,837 exceeded the household income limit to be eligible for Medicaid, while 4,143 requested closure and 2,944 did not meet program requirements.

Arkansas stopped disenrolling most Medicaid beneficiaries after former President Donald Trump on March 18, 2020, signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. It increased federal Medicaid matching funds for states that kept all individual cases active during the public health emergency. The state’s Medicaid rolls rose by 230,000 total during the pandemic.

The federal Consolidated Appropriations Act, signed into law last December by President Joe Biden, allowed states after March 31 to begin dropping Medicaid recipients who are no longer eligible. Normal eligibility rules, set by Congress and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, resumed April 1.

All beneficiaries who have not had a renewal in the last 12 months are being redetermined.

There is a grace period to help those who may fall through the cracks. Recipients who were disenrolled but still qualify usually can have their coverage reinstated without a gap if they provide their information within 30 or 90 days after their cases are closed. Individuals who later learn their coverage has ended can reapply and have retroactive coverage back to the date of reapplication.

For more than a year, DHS has conducted outreach to recipients, met with providers and stakeholders, and conducted an awareness campaign to encourage a return of renewal applications. It said beneficiaries are sent multiple notices by mail, with later ones advising them their case will be closed if they don’t respond or are found to be ineligible. The department said it also tries to reach recipients by text, email and/or phone if possible.

DHS said it has made a special effort to reach families with children covered by Medicaid, including by providing pediatricians lists of patients who could be disenrolled. DHS has distributed materials to families through school districts, school nurses, and libraries, and has contacted families directly.