COLUMBIA, Mo (KMIZ)
Medicaid renewals have begun in Missouri, and the federal government is expressing concern about how some states are handling the massive review.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, people on Medicaid were able to stay continuously enrolled. This year, the Family Support Division is required to begin checking the eligibility of MO HealthNet participants, Missouri’s Medicaid program, and once again start up annual renewals.
According to the Missouri Department of Social Services’ website, 106,103 people were due for Medicaid renewals in July. Of those, 66,455 were renewed, and 18,018 are still pending determination.
4,998 were determined ineligible due to income or status change, and 16,632 were closed for procedural reasons, such as not completing the necessary documentation.
The Missouri DSS website said if people do not complete their application by the due date, coverage will be lost on the last day of that month. However, there is a 90-day grace period after that date to restore benefits if someone completes the correct paperwork.
Missouri Connections for Health is one organization in Columbia that helps people find healthcare, such as Medicaid. Executive director Scott Miniea said there are three key takeaways for people to make sure they don't lose coverage due to procedural reasons.
First, he said to make sure DSS can reach you. Update any changes in address or phone number so you can receive notifications about what is needed.
Second, be sure to open mail, because Family Support Division will notify people about renewals via mail.
Third, he said to reply promptly.
"I have heard about a number of people being dropped for procedural reasons, meaning they couldn't be reached, or they were asked for information and didn't open their mail, and didn't read that letter or didn't understand it," Miniea said.
Politico reports that nationwide, more than 4 million people have lost Medicaid benefits in the last four months, 75% of which have lost coverage due to procedural problems.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent letters to states this week, including Missouri, expressing concern about how the process is going and reminding state leaders of federal regulations.
In the letter to Missouri, dated August 9, data for May shows the average call center wait time for eligibility and enrollment was 48 minutes, with 44% of calls being abandoned.
Miniea said he has seen varying call wait times, but it has improved in recent months.
The letter said these statistics can be barriers for people to complete their application or renewal, and Missouri should review call center data to determine where changes should be made, such as increasing staff or extending call center hours to meet demand.
The deputy director of CMS wrote, “Based on your state’s data, CMS has concerns that your average call center wait time and abandonment rate are impeding equitable access to assistance and the ability for people to apply for or renew Medicaid and CHIP coverage by phone and may indicate potential non-compliance with federal requirements.”
ABC 17 has reached out to Missouri DSS for comment, but has not heard back.
If people need to know more about renewing their Medicaid status, visit mydss.mo.gov/renew. Miniea said Missouri Connections for Health also operates a toll-free hotline called Cover Missouri Coalition. People can call 800-466-3213 to get connected to help.
"You don't have to navigate it alone," Minea said.
He said even if people are no longer eligible for Medicaid, they should still reach out for assistance, because some may still qualify for another form of help, such as Marketplace or Medicare.
He also said to read notifications about status carefully, as some people may be taken off of Medicaid, but their children will still be eligible for coverage.