JEFFERSON CITY — A Department of Social Services official told employees recently that forms from Missourians seeking health care coverage under Medicaid expansion “will sit there” for nearly two months while the state makes system updates.
“The applications will sit there until we have the eligibility piece in, which will be Oct. 1,” Kim Evans, director of the Family Support Division, told workers in a video obtained by the Post-Dispatch through an open records request.
Despite the planned delay, the Aug. 11 video also indicates the state currently has the ability to enroll new applicants, a departure from a news release sent out the same day by Gov. Mike Parson’s office, which suggested it didn’t.
“Staff will go ahead and do the verifications that are needed on the applications,” Evans said. “But what we will do is, we will not — we will not run a determination. We will not finalize these applications. We will let the system do that on October the first.”
Parson’s news release didn’t mention DSS’ apparent ability to “run a determination” or “finalize” applications prior to Oct. 1.
The recorded message, as well as Parson’s newsrelease, followed a Cole County judge’s Aug. 10 order directing the state not to deny Medicaid applications from individuals eligible under expansion, which 53% of voters supported in an August 2020 referendum.
Rebecca Woelfel, spokeswoman for the Department of Social Services, did not directly answer a question asking why the state wasn’t enrolling individuals now if it has the capacity to do so.
“As Kim Evans indicated, at this time the Family Support Division (FSD) is only verifying application information,” Woelfel said. “Verifying information is a preliminary step FSD can perform now that will eventually expedite the processing of applications once the eligibility determination system is ready on Oct. 1.”
The video raised concerns for attorneys who worked on the case that led to the Aug. 10 order to kick-start Medicaid expansion.
“We wish they were moving faster,” said Chuck Hatfield, attorney for three women seeking coverage under the plan.
He said the state appears “to just be holding everything until Oct. 1. And I don’t think that’s really appropriate.
“In that video there’s no indication that they’re trying to get done as soon as they can. They appear to just have picked Oct. 1 as sort of a convenient date for them,” Hatfield said. “We think they could approve manually.”
“Our understanding is that it is not that complicated to go ahead and determine eligibility and enroll people,” he said.
Evans said in the video employees would receive training for the Medicaid expansion.
“We need to be ready with all of our training, our policy, everything that we need for Oct. 1,” Evans said.
“The training probably should’ve been done a long time ago,” Hatfield said. “The department has known since — for over a year now — you know, that … Medicaid expansion was going to come online.”
Whether a newly eligible individual who has applied is allowed to enroll in August, September or October may not have any bearing on the benefits they ultimately receive, Parson’s news release said.
“Qualifying health care costs that are incurred by eligible Missourians between the time they apply and when DSS is able to verify their eligibility may be reimbursed at a later date,” the release said.
The Medicaid expansion population includes adults ages 19-64 who earn less than 138% of the federal poverty level, or about $18,000 per year.