Advocates claim that the Biden administration is not taking swift action as millions of people are being removed from Medicaid.

Approximately 30 million of the least wealthy individuals in the United States may be removed from the Medicaid program due to flawed state evaluations, a situation that poverty experts believe the Biden administration is not adequately addressing.

According to Avalere, a health consulting company, states are currently reassessing the 94 million individuals enrolled in Medicaid, which is the government’s health insurance for low-income Americans. This reassessment has revealed numerous issues across the nation, such as lengthy wait times for phone calls in Florida, complicated government forms in Arkansas, and incorrect removal of children from coverage in Texas.

Trevor Hawkins, a lawyer representing Legal Aid of Arkansas, stated that those individuals were bound to be unsuccessful.

Hawkins aided numerous individuals in Arkansas with understanding their eligibility for Medicaid, while state authorities attempted to quickly remove approximately 420,000 people from the program within a span of six months. He brought attention to issues with Arkansas’ procedures, such as incorrect forms instructing individuals to reapply for Medicaid rather than renew it, to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

He stated that nothing had changed.

Hawkins expressed concern about CMS’s lack of communication and transparency, stating that this should raise serious concerns. He believes that if there was a need for CMS to intervene, it would have occurred in Arkansas.

Advocates from various regions in the United States have reported experiencing numerous issues while assisting the roughly 10 million individuals who have been removed from Medicaid. There are concerns that larger problems are being overlooked.

The Health and Human Services Department announced Tuesday that it is keeping a close watch on states such as Texas, Florida, and Arkansas, where a significant portion of the nation’s Medicaid disenrollments have occurred.

HHS stated in an email that these and other states must make a greater effort to safeguard coverage. They have notified all states and are willing to take enforcement measures if necessary.

Last year, Congress lifted a COVID-19 regulation that prevented states from removing individuals from Medicaid during the pandemic. Instead, states must now reassess the eligibility of all enrollees within the next year. However, Congress, which is currently led by Democrats, also granted HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra the authority to penalize states or stop the removal of individuals if they were being wrongfully removed.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has not disclosed much information about the issues it has discovered.

At the beginning of the year, the organization briefly stopped removing individuals from enrollment in 14 states. However, it did not reveal which states were affected or the rationale behind the pause.

In August, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported that numerous children in 29 states were mistakenly removed from coverage due to a system error that removed entire households instead of individual members. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) instructed the states to restore coverage for those affected by this error, as stated by Daniel Tsai, director of the CMS Center for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program Services.

Tsai stated that they are utilizing all possible means to ensure that states are held responsible.

The state of Florida attempted to terminate Lily Mezquita’s Medicaid coverage twice while she was pregnant this year. Mezquita, a 31-year-old mother who lives in Miami and works, had to make 17 phone calls and endure wait times of up to two hours before she was able to get her coverage reinstated in August. She was in the hospital in preterm labor at the time. Mezquita would have to remind the state of their own law, which guarantees her coverage during pregnancy and for 12 months after giving birth.

She expressed frustration as she stated that despite her efforts to explain, nobody was willing to listen. She also noted that they were making mistakes but were stubborn in their beliefs.

Due to a delay in her coverage being recorded in the state’s system, Mezquita had to personally pay for medication prescribed by doctors to prevent the recurrence of pre-term labor. As a result, she was unable to attend follow-up appointments for her baby girl.

Avalere estimates that if current patterns persist, up to 30 million individuals may lose their Medicaid coverage as states complete their reviews of Medicaid enrollments. This greatly surpasses the Biden administration’s original forecast of 15 million individuals losing coverage during this process.

According to Massey Whorley, a principal at Avalere, the Medicaid redeterminations are not going well. There has been a significant amount of disenrollment, which was unexpected.

Many were removed due to procedural issues, such as not returning their renewal form or submitting the correct paperwork. This highlights larger issues with how states are determining eligibility for Medicaid: their notifications are not reaching individuals, are unclear, or are requesting unnecessary documentation. It is possible that many of those removed for these reasons still qualify for Medicaid and could potentially be reinstated in the future.

The state of Arkansas recently completed its Medicaid redeterminations and public records obtained by the AP reveal that over 70% of individuals were removed from the program due to the state’s inability to contact them or their failure to submit renewal forms or required documents.

Hawkins stated that they have received numerous calls from individuals who were recently discharged from the emergency room and discovered that they do not have insurance.

The Department of Human Services in the state reports that it made attempts to contact individuals through multiple methods, including calls, emails, and texts. According to spokesperson Gavin Lesnick, the large number of disenrollments may be due to individuals not returning their Medicaid renewal forms after no longer meeting the qualifications. Lesnick clarified that CMS has not requested Arkansas to halt disenrollments.

According to Lynn Hearn, a lawyer with the Florida Health Justice Project, the process in Florida has been hindered by extended wait times and insufficient explanations for why individuals are losing their Medicaid coverage. Hearn assisted Mezquita in appealing her case to the state. Recently, the nonprofit organization filed a lawsuit against the state for its handling of the process.

Hearn stated that the CMS has been hesitant to intervene regarding the concerns we have brought up. We have observed mistakes in the state’s handling of the issue, which suggests larger problems rather than isolated incidents.

According to an email from spokesperson Mallory McManus, the Florida Department of Children and Families has achieved an 87% response rate for renewal forms and has reduced call wait times to under five minutes.

According to Cassidy Estes-Rogers, the director of family support and healthcare at the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, individuals enrolled in Medicaid in North Carolina are facing difficulties contacting their local office by phone and receiving responses to their messages. State officials have not yet addressed inquiries about these phone issues.

According to Estes-Rogers, she routinely communicates with CMS representatives in the area to address issues.

She stated that they do not receive any updates on how the issue was resolved and they do not notice any immediate impact from it.

Similar problems have arisen in Texas, where website and app outages have meant families don’t even get the electronic notices stating their Medicaid coverage was up for renewal, said Graciela Camarena, the child health outreach program director for the Children’s Defense Fund in Texas.

Camarena stated that the individuals were at either the doctor’s office or the pediatricians’ office when they discovered they had been denied.

Camarena stated that CMS has discussed concerns with her group and she is satisfied with their assistance. Several Texas legislators have requested that CMS look into problems in the state, where almost 1 million individuals have lost their Medicaid coverage.

According to Jennifer Ruffcorn, a spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services, CMS has not requested the state to halt the process. She stated in an email that the agency is constantly making efforts to enhance its app and website.

According to Tsai, local organizations have been reporting problems to national groups, which CMS addresses on a weekly basis. These issues do not always go against federal regulations.

Tsai commented, “Yet, when observing the situation, one may question how this process is beneficial and user-friendly.”

The Center for Medicaid Services (CMS), directed by Jennifer Wagner, has made efforts to collaborate with states in order to enhance the enrollment process for Medicaid. They have been working with community organizations to report any issues to CMS.

She stated that in certain states, there is debate about whether it is appropriate to move towards enforcement.


Hunter provided a report from Atlanta.


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