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State prepares for Medicaid extension to unwind for 434,000 residents

Connecticut state health and human services departments are preparing for the end of the federal government’s Medicaid coverage extension on March 31, which will affect 434,000 Medicaid enrollees who had automatic continuing coverage under the COVID-19 emergency measures.

The emergency Medicaid extension throughout the pandemic years meant Medicaid users did not have to re-enroll and confirm their income levels. This reduced the regular “churn” of people either enrolling or unenrolling based on their income and employment status, and pushed the number of Connecticut Medicaid enrollees up to 925,000.

“So, a little bit less than a third of our population in Connecticut. That is actually quite staggering to think of it that way,” said Dr. Manisha Juthani, commissioner of the Department of Public Health, during an Access Health CT Board of Directors meeting.

Officials said they have been planning for the end of the extension for the past year and will focus on the 434,000 enrollees who have been automatically covered under the emergency extension. The Medicaid continuous enrollment will phase down through the end of 2023, as will the federal government’s enhanced matching funds.

Various Connecticut agencies, including the Department of Social Services, Access Health CT and the Office of Health Strategy, are hoping to launch a targeted television, radio, internet and mailing advertising blitz, particularly in communities with high numbers of Medicaid enrollees covered under the extension, but the advertising campaign has yet to receive funding. 

Due to the size of the extension population, the departments are working to service cohorts of extension enrollees one month at a time, processing them along with the normal monthly Medicaid redeterminations, and focusing on families who have gone the longest without a redetermination of eligibility. 

This does not mean the extension enrollees will necessarily lose Medicaid eligibility, just that they may have to re-enroll with updated information, or possibly be directed to other subsidized health insurance options. 

Officials estimate that roughly 334,000 extension enrollees will be re-enrolled in Medicaid or have transitional coverage, while the remaining 100,000 will likely receive coverage through either Covered CT or Access Health CT. The challenge is in reaching all those individuals to determine what coverage they are eligible for.

Access Health CT Director of Health Equity and Outreach Tammy Hendricks said they were able to break down the unwinding population by county, with New Haven and Hartford counties having the highest number of people covered under the extension, and will focus their outreach efforts based on need, partnering with community organizations.

Hendricks said there will be “enrollment fairs” to provide extra in-person help year-round and the department will be hiring additional, temporary staff, although there are resources available through Access Health CT’s brokers and online to aid with Medicaid redetermination.

According to CT DSS’s unwinding plan, additional staff will have to be added to the DSS-AHCT call center in order to process the renewal applications.

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that upwards of 15 million people in the United States will be affected by the unwinding and 6.8 million will likely still be eligible for Medicaid coverage.

“Obviously, this is going to require a lot of resources,” said Access Health CT CEO James Michel. “We don’t want anybody to go without health insurance.”

Marc E. Fitch, Senior Investigative Reporter

Marc E. Fitch

Marc worked as an investigative reporter for Yankee Institute and was a 2014 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow. He previously worked in the field of mental health is the author of several books and novels, along with numerous freelance reporting jobs and publications. Marc has a Master of Fine Arts degree from Western Connecticut State University.

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