JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
Children who are deemed eligible for Medicaid will now have continuous eligibility for one year regardless of changes in the family's status. This will begin on Jan. 1, 2024, with children's coverage to be reevaluated at the time of the family's annual renewal.
This was discussed at a MO HealthNet Oversight Committee Meeting on Tuesday, after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent a letter to state officials in September requiring the continuous coverage.
"Once the state has made an eligibility determination, regardless of whatever changes might happen in that family's circumstance over the course of 12 months, that child will retain their eligibility," Missouri Department of Social Services spokesperson Caitlin Whaley said.
Whaley gave the example of a family who is deemed eligible for Medicaid in October, but maybe in January a parent gets a new job and is no longer eligible for coverage. While the parent will no longer be covered by Medicaid, the child would be covered until the next October when the family goes through the annual renewal process again.
Sheldon Weisgrau, vice president of health policy and advocacy at Missouri Foundation for Health, said he believes this is a step in the right direction for Missouri.
"I think it's a major positive change," Weisgrau said. "It's really important that kids stay covered. They constantly need doctor visits. If you have little kids, you know that they are getting ear infections or getting sore throats."
He said gaps in coverage are typically more likely to happen to children of color.
"It's really important that continuous coverage will help close some of those inequities and help close some of those coverage gaps," Weisgrau said.
The state is prepared to implement the changes, according to Whaley. She said the change has mainly been implemented in an effort to reduce disruptions in children's coverage.
"You want to make sure that children are going to those well-child visits, you want to make sure that they're able to access any therapy services they might need, vaccines families might want to provide their children," Whaley said. "So, really, providing that year of coverage is hopefully going to have more continuity of care for the kids that are receiving coverage through the state."
This change comes as Missouri continues through the Medicaid renewal process after evaluations were paused during the pandemic. Whaley said this does not impact the re-evaluation process currently taking place.
"We still have to check that eligibility once a year for kids," Whaley said. "It's just once we've made that eligibility determination, then they're good to go."
State reevaluations began in June, and so far, 52,706 children have lost Medicaid coverage, according to data from the state Department of Social Services.
ABC 17 News previously reported most Missouri children are losing coverage due to "procedural reasons," such as parents not having the necessary documentation or not being able to be reached by the state department.
Whaley said it's important for people to check their mail and communicate with the state department during the renewal process.