Groups working to help low-income Georgians avoid losing Medicaid during 'unwinding'
As the state reevaluates Medicaid recipients for continued coverage, health advocates are concerned many Georgians could inadvertently lose their insurance.
The federal government has given states just over a year to complete the so-called unwinding process, now that the Biden administration has ended the pandemic emergency’s continuous coverage provisions that were in place since March 2020.
In Georgia, this means the Department of Human Services and the Department of Community Health must together reevaluate the eligibility of nearly three million low-income people currently on Medicaid or PeachCare for Kids.
Due to this, Georgia is likely to see some of the most extensive coverage losses in the country, said Georgians for a Healthy Future Executive Director Laura Colbert.
“Some of those coverage losses are going to be among kids who are still eligible for Medicaid. And they may lose that coverage just because of the bureaucracy of the renewal process,” she said. “Some adult coverage losses that we see are really going to be because Georgia has not yet opted to cover low-income adults and really make the Medicaid program complete.”
Georgia is among ten states that have not expanded Medicaid fully under the Affordable Care Act, which would cover adults with incomes up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level.
According to numbers from the United States Department of Health and Human Services, as many as 15 million people nationwide will lose Medicaid, including 6.8 million who remain eligible.
State officials say workers will refer any Medicaid recipients who are disenrolled from the program to other insurance options, including the Healthcare.gov marketplace.
As the only physician in the Southwest Georgia town of Fort Gaines, Dr. Karen Kinsell cares for a high number of low-income patients. She is worried about those patients being kicked off of Medicaid because of a simple paperwork mistake or a missed letter in the mail.
“There are many of these people who have chronic illnesses as well as medical crises — an infected appendix, break a leg — and when these are not dealt with timely, people become disabled, go onto the disability rolls, frequently go through bankruptcy for things which could have been fixed in like four hours in a surgery center,” she said.
“And it’s going to be a disaster not only for the patients but for the healthcare system. Medicaid has a huge impact on maintaining rural hospitals in our own area. There has to be paying patients to maintain doctors and facilities for everyone else in the community to go to.”
State officials have publicized the redetermination process for months to help Medicaid recipients prepare and avoid inadvertently losing their insurance.
They are urging anyone with Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids to update their contact information in the online Gateway system, and check their accounts for their individual renewal dates.