(The Center Square) — About 125,000 Louisiana Medicaid recipients have lost coverage during the first two months of re-eligibility reviews by the Department of Health following the end of federal pandemic regulations.
The end of a continuous enrollment provision imposed by the federal government during the pandemic that prohibited eligibility reviews means states are now reviewing Medicaid eligibility over the next year, and Louisiana Medicaid Executive Director Tara LaBlanc provided an update on that process to lawmakers last week.
LaBlanc told the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget Friday that during June and July, the first two months of the unwinding, the department automatically renewed 158,000 Medicaid recipients for another year.
Another roughly 170,000 were sent renewal packets requesting eligibility information, and most did not respond, LaBlanc said.
“They must respond to be able to continue their Medicaid coverage if they are still eligible,” she said. “Over the two months, we’ve closed 49,000 of the expansion group, we’ve closed around another 40,000 of children. We’ve closed another 12,800 in the aged, blind and disabled group, and we’ve closed another probably 10,000 in some minor categories.”
In total, about 125,000 lost coverage, but some may be eligible and return to the rolls. If they respond within 90 days of receiving their renewal packet and are eligible, they will have their coverage retroactively renewed to when their file was closed. Beyond 90 days and they’ll have to reapply, LaBlanc said.
“One-hundred twenty-five (thousand) were closed out of that 170,000. A portion of those individuals were ineligible, and … a majority portion of those individuals did not respond to the renewal packet we mailed them,” she said.
The numbers represent a significant portion of the roughly 355,000 residents Louisiana health officials predict will ultimately lose coverage during the unwinding, but LaBlanc contends it will take about six months to understand how many will seek to renew their coverage.
“We do expect a lot of churn,” LaBlanc said. “The first month of June, we saw about 10,000 children come back. We think that is because school started and they needed school shots and physicals for sports.”
“We need a good six months to really figure out what the enrollments are going to be,” she said.
Louisiana’s disenrollment rate of about 36% is in line with the overall national percentage of the same, though the rate varies widely from 69% in Texas to 9% in Michigan, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Medicaid Enrollment and Unwinding Tracker.
In neighboring Mississippi, the rate is 39%, while in Arkansas it’s 60%.
Through Sept. 18, a total of 6.6 million Medicaid enrollees nationwide have been disenrolled, while about 11.2 million have had their coverage renewed, according to the tracker.
“Because not all states have publicly available data on total disenrollments, the data reported … undercount the actual number of disenrollments,” the foundation reports.
Other discussions on the process Friday centered on how the Louisiana Department of Health is working to improve income and marital status verification for Medicaid through credit bureau data and tax information at the Department of Revenue.
The department is spending roughly $50 million on advertising to educate Louisianans about the unwinding and re-eligibility renewals, LaBlanc said.