Health Advice



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

Phil Galewitz, KFF Health News, KFF Health News on

Published in Health & Fitness

The federal government has given most states 12 months to complete their unwinding, starting with the first disenrollments between last April and October.

Timothy McBride, a health economist at Washington University in St. Louis, said the nation’s historically low unemployment rate means people who lose Medicaid coverage are more likely to find job-based coverage or be better able to afford plans on Obamacare marketplaces. “That is one reason why the drop in Medicaid is not a lot worse,” he said.

There are big differences between states. Oregon, for example, has disenrolled just 12% of its beneficiaries. Seventy-five percent have been renewed, according to KFF. The rest are pending.

At the other end of the spectrum, Oklahoma has dumped 43% of its beneficiaries in the unwinding, renewing coverage for just 34%. About 24% are pending.

States have varying eligibility rules, and some make it easier to stay enrolled. For instance, Oregon allows children to stay on Medicaid until age 6 without having to reapply. All other enrollees get up to two years of coverage regardless of changes in income.

Jennifer Harris, senior health policy advocate for Alabama Arise, an advocacy group, said her state’s Medicaid agency and other nonprofit organizations communicated well to enrollees about the need to reapply for coverage and that the state also hired more people to handle the surge. About 29% of beneficiaries in Alabama who’ve had eligibility reviews were disenrolled for procedural reasons, KFF found.

“Things are even keel in Alabama,” she said, noting that about 66% of enrollees have been renewed.

State officials have told the legislature that about a quarter of people disenrolled during the unwinding were reenrolled within 90 days, she said.

One of a handful of states that have refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, Alabama had about 920,000 enrollees in Medicaid and CHIP in January 2020. That number rose to about 1.2 million in April 2023.


More than halfway into the unwinding, the state is on track for enrollment to return to pre-pandemic levels, Harris said.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, said she remains worried the drop in Medicaid enrollment among children is steeper than typical. That’s particularly bothersome because children usually qualify for Medicaid at higher household income levels than their parents or other adults.

During the unwinding 3.8 million children have lost Medicaid coverage, according to the center’s latest data. “Many more kids are falling off now than prior to the pandemic,” Alker said.

And when they’re dropped, many families struggle to get them back on, she said. “The whole system is backlogged and the ability of people to get back on in a timely fashion is more limited,” she said.

The big question, Levitt said, is how many of the millions of people dropped from Medicaid are now uninsured.

The only state to survey those disenrolled — Utah — discovered about 30% were uninsured. Many of the rest found employer health coverage or signed up for subsidized coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

What’s happened nationwide remains unclear.

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


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