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Halfway through 'unwinding,' Medicaid enrollment is down about 10 million

Phil Galewitz, KFF Health News, KFF Health News on

Published in Health & Fitness

Halfway through what will be the biggest purge of Medicaid beneficiaries in a one-year span, enrollment in the government-run health insurance program is on track to return to roughly pre-pandemic levels.

Medicaid, which covers low-income and disabled people, and the related Children’s Health Insurance Program grew to a record 94 million enrollees as a result of a rule that prohibited states from terminating coverage during the nation’s public health emergency.

But since last April, states have removed more than 16 million people from the programs in a process known as the “unwinding,” according to KFF estimates compiled from state-level data.

While many beneficiaries no longer qualify because their incomes rose, millions of people have been dropped from the rolls for procedural reasons like failing to respond to notices or return paperwork. But at the same time, millions have been reenrolled or signed up for the first time.

The net result: Enrollment has fallen by about 9.5 million people from the record high reached last April, according to KFF. That puts Medicaid and CHIP enrollment on track to look, by the end of the unwinding later this year, a lot like it did at the start of the coronavirus pandemic: about 71 million people.

“What we are seeing is not dissimilar to what we saw before the pandemic — it is just happening on a bigger scale and more quickly,” said Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at KFF.

 

Enrollment churn has long been a feature of Medicaid. Before the pandemic, about 1 million to 1.5 million people nationwide fell off the Medicaid rolls each month — including many who still qualified but failed to renew their coverage, Levitt said.

During the unwinding, many people have been disenrolled in a shorter time. In some ways — and in some states — it’s been worse than expected.

The Biden administration predicted about 15 million people would lose coverage under Medicaid or CHIP during the unwinding period, nearly half due to procedural issues. Both predictions have proven low. Based on data reported so far, disenrollments are likely to exceed 17 million, according to KFF — 70% due to procedural reasons.

But about two-thirds of the 48 million beneficiaries who have had their eligibility reviewed so far got their coverage renewed. About one-third lost it.

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©2024 KFF Health News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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