Coloradans risk losing Medicaid this May
The 2020 continuous coverage provision that kept Coloradans on Medicaid expires; redeterminations begin again
- Grand County Department of Human Services: Co.Grand.Co.Us/260/Human-Services; 970-725-3331
- Grand County Rural Health Network: GcRuralHealth.org; 970-725-3477
- Mountain Family Center: MountainFamilyCenter.org; 970-557-3186
Starting in May, some Coloradans on Medicaid will lose their benefits as pandemic-era protections end. For the first time in three years, Medicaid recipients will be required to complete the redetermination process, or they will be disenrolled from the program. Residents who no longer qualify financially will also lose benefits.
This is due to a federal action that ends the continuous coverage provision that Congress enacted in February 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. During continuous coverage, those on Medicaid could not lose it, regardless of income. They also weren’t required to complete the redetermination process to confirm they were eligible.
Medicaid provides free healthcare to low-income residents under the age of 65; in Colorado, it’s known as Health First Colorado, or Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) for children and pregnant women. These vulnerable populations rely on Medicaid for their healthcare needs, whether is it a routine checkup or life-saving medication.
Medicaid agencies in Colorado will begin disenrolling individuals who are no longer eligible for the program on May 31. Some states began disenrolling people as early as April 1.
Hundreds of Grand County residents could lose Medicaid
Although Grand County residents have a bit more time, Deb Ruttenberg, director of Grand County Human Services, stressed that they shouldn’t wait to begin the redetermination process.
During the March 21 board of county commissioners meeting, Ruttenberg told commissioners that residents will receive redetermination packets beginning this month. Residents will receive the packets based on the anniversary month that they enrolled in Medicaid. If someone enrolled in April, they already have their packet. If someone enrolled in December, they won’t receive their packet until November 2023.
Because the redeterminations are spread out, the disenrollment process will take a year. Everyone must complete their redetermination by the deadline listed on their packet.
“If they don’t do that, they would be dropped from Medicaid coverage,” Ruttenberg told commissioners.
About 1,600 Grand County residents are currently locked into Medicaid through the continuous coverage provision. According to Ruttenberg, statistics from the state of Colorado predict that about 41% of locked-in Medicaid recipients will lose coverage.
“For our numbers, that ends up being about 639 people who are at risk of losing their Medicaid coverage once the continuous coverage provision ends,” Ruttenberg said.
She clarified that Grand County Human Services is not disenrolling local residents – it is the Colorado Benefits Management System. Entities like the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing use the data collected by the management system to determine people’s eligibility.
Those who turn in their redetermination packets may make too much income to receive Medicaid. In Colorado, income limits for the program were increased in 2023 to account for inflation.
One person making up to $19,392 a year, or a family of four making up to $39,900 a year, is eligible for Medicaid. For CHP+, a child or pregnant woman is eligible if the household income is up to $38,637 a year for one person, or up to $79,500 for a family of four.
“Really, the onus is on the individuals who are currently receiving Medicaid to make sure that they turn in that redetermination packet, so that we have the information we need to determine whether or not they can continue their Medicaid coverage,” she said.
Ruttenberg emphasized that – although her department is not fully staffed – their employees are ready to take on the workload to ensure every resident’s redetermination packet is processed.
“The people that I’ve got on board … are all fully trained to be able to handle this. It’s a matter of just putting in the time and we’ve got the funding through health care policy and financing to help if someone had to do overtime,” she said. “So no, those citizens aren’t going to get shortchanged because of something that happens within my department; our people put in the time to make sure that citizens are getting their determinations processed.”
Human services will also assist residents who need help with their packets, since the process is complicated.
“The smallest packet that one of my (employees) has seen since they started turning them in is about 30 pages,” she said. “It can be up to 80 pages for one person for their Medicaid, so it’s a lot of paper to go through.”
Medicaid statistics and next steps
In Colorado, 1.7 million people are enrolled in Health First Colorado or CHP+, according to Health Care Policy & Financing. The department estimates that over the yearlong disenrollment process, more than 325,000 Coloradans will lose the safety net of these Medicaid programs.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, nearly 500,000 more Coloradans have enrolled in Medicaid. In the U.S., more than 92 million people receive Medicaid, or 1 in 4 people, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
For those on Medicaid, their first step is to ensure their mailing address and contact information is up-to-date by visiting Co.Gov/PEAK, the PEAK app on their phone, or calling the PEAK help desk at 800-250-7741.
Once residents receive their redetermination packets, they must fill them out and return them by the deadline. They can submit redetermination via the Colorado PEAK website or app, or can turn in the physical paperwork to Grand County Human Services. (Some residents will be automatically renewed.)
Residents who lose their Medicaid will be without health insurance. To ensure they continue to receive care, they can access ConnectForHealthCo.com to shop for health insurance on the marketplace. Through Connect for Health Colorado, they may qualify for financial help to lower the cost of insurance, depending on their income and family size. They can also visit HealthFirstColorado.com/Renewals to learn more about the process or to access other resources.
Several local organizations also provide assistance for residents who are filling out their redetermination packets or are searching for health coverage options. The nonprofits Mountain Family Center and Grand County Rural Health Network also offer programs to help residents who are struggling financially.
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