New focus groups from KFF provide insight into Medicaid beneficiaries’ experiences amid the unwinding of the continuous enrollment provision. While many found the process of renewing Medicaid coverage simple, others experienced challenges.
The continuous enrollment provision prevented states from disenrolling Medicaid beneficiaries during the Covid-19 public health emergency. The provision ended in March, and states are in the process of redetermining if Medicaid enrollees are still eligible for coverage and disenrolling those who aren’t or haven’t completed their renewal for coverage.
KFF put into a report the experiences of five focus groups with people from Arizona, Florida and Pennsylvania. The participants self-reported that they either had Medicaid themselves or had children who did. The focus groups were held virtually.
The focus groups revealed that many of those who successfully renewed their Medicaid coverage thought the process was “quick and easy.” This was particularly true for those who completed the process online. KFF noted, however, that “those who have access to computers who were able to participate in our virtual focus groups may be more likely to be able to complete an online renewal process.”
Many of those who renewed coverage still faced barriers. For example, some said the notices about the need to renew coverage were difficult to understand, and that they faced long wait times with call centers when they needed to get questions answered.
“I’ve waited longer than two hours before, and still have not had my phone call answered,” one participant of the focus groups said.
Those who were disenrolled from Medicaid lost their coverage for several different reasons, such as no longer being eligible because of increases in their income or for procedural reasons like not completing the renewal process. One participant said he had issues trying to update his address and lost coverage because the notice was sent to his former address.
Many of the disenrolled participants faced communication problems. Some of the participants said they didn’t receive a notice from the state about renewing coverage or being disenrolled and were not aware that they lost Medicaid coverage until they tried to refill a prescription.
“When I went for my prescriptions they were like, you don’t have insurance. I’m like well what are you talking about, I have insurance, I got my prescriptions last month,” a participant said.
Some of the participants were able to get their Medicaid coverage reinstated after being disenrolled but had to contact their Medicaid agency multiple times or reach out to an advocacy group for help. Others were able to get coverage through the ACA marketplace or their employer, while some remained uninsured.
Overall, the focus group participants stated that they valued Medicaid coverage.
“Across all groups, participants said that losing Medicaid would be devastating and would prevent them from being able to continue to access the prescriptions or treatments they need,” KFF said. “Participants stressed that the prescriptions and treatments covered by Medicaid are ‘lifesaving;’ they believed that losing Medicaid would cause a serious decline in their physical and mental health and expressed anxiety at the thought of no longer having Medicaid coverage for themselves or their children.”
KFF added that the findings show the importance of offering multiple ways to renew coverage, including online. In addition, agencies need to communicate early with beneficiaries and clearly, and they need to improve access to call centers.
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