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Roughly 15 million people could lose Medicaid coverage when the COVID-19 public health emergency ends, and only a small percentage are likely to obtain coverage on the Affordable Care Act exchanges, according to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services.
Using longitudinal survey data and 2021 enrollment information, HHS estimated that, based on historical patterns of coverage loss, this would translate to about 17.4% of Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) enrollees leaving the program.
About 9.5% of Medicaid enrollees, or 8.2 million people, will leave Medicaid due to loss of eligibility and will need to transition to another source of coverage. Based on historical patterns, 7.9% (6.8 million) will lose Medicaid coverage despite still being eligible – a phenomenon known as “administrative churning” – although HHS said it’s taking steps to reduce this outcome.
Children and young adults will be impacted disproportionately, with 5.3 million children and 4.7 million adults ages 18-34 predicted to lose Medicaid/CHIP coverage. Nearly one-third of those predicted to lose coverage are Hispanic (4.6 million) and 15% (2.2 million) are Black.
Almost one-third (2.7 million) of those predicted to lose eligibility are expected to qualify for marketplace premium tax credits. Among these, more than 60% (1.7 million) are expected to be eligible for zero-premium marketplace plans under the provisions of the American Rescue Plan. Another 5 million would be expected to obtain other coverage, primarily employer-sponsored insurance.
An estimated 383,000 people projected to lose eligibility for Medicaid would fall in the coverage gap in the remaining 12 non-expansion states – with incomes too high for Medicaid, but too low to receive Marketplace tax credits. State adoption of Medicaid expansion in these states is a key tool to mitigate potential coverage loss at the end of the PHE, said HHS.
States are directly responsible for eligibility redeterminations, while the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services provides technical assistance and oversight of compliance with Medicaid regulations. Eligibility and renewal systems, staffing capacity, and investment in end-of-PHE preparedness vary across states.
HHS said it’s working with states to facilitate enrollment in alternative sources of health coverage and minimize administrative churning. These efforts could reduce the number of eligible people losing Medicaid, the agency said.
The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 extends the ARP’s enhanced and expanded Marketplace premium tax credit provisions until 2025, providing a key source of alternative coverage for those losing Medicaid eligibility, said HHS.
WHAT’S THE IMPACT
While the model projects that as many as 15 million people could leave Medicaid after the PHE, about 5 million are likely to obtain other coverage outside the marketplace and nearly 3 million would have a subsidized Marketplace option. And some who lose eligibility at the end of the PHE may regain it during the unwinding period, while some who lose coverage despite being eligible may re-enroll.
The findings highlight the importance of administrative and legislative actions to reduce the risk of coverage losses after the continuous enrollment provision ends, said HHS. Successful policy approaches should address the different reasons for coverage loss.
Broadly speaking, one set of strategies is needed to increase the likelihood that those losing Medicaid eligibility acquire other coverage, and a second set of strategies is needed to minimize administrative churning among those still eligible for coverage.
Importantly, some administrative churning is expected under all scenarios, though reducing the typical churning rate by half would result in the retention of 3.4 million additional enrollees.
THE LARGER TREND
CMS has released a roadmap to ending the COVID-19 public health emergency as health officials are expecting the Biden administration to extend the PHE for another 90 days after mid-October.
The end of the PHE, last continued on July 15, is not known, but HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra has promised to give providers 60 days’ notice before announcing the end of the public health emergency.
A public health emergency has existed since January 27, 2020.