The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced on Wednesday, March 1, that Medicaid users across the state may lose their healthcare coverage or see a reduction in benefits.
The recertification process, called "Medicaid continuous coverage unwinding," will begin on April 1 due to changes at the federal level.
Since March 2020, states have been required to maintain enrollment of almost all Medicaid users because of the COVID-19 public health emergency, even if their eligibility status changed. However, this continuous coverage requirement will end on March 31.
“As recertifications take place over the next 12 months, up to 300,000 North Carolinians may lose full health care coverage or see a reduction in benefits,” NCDHHS said in a press release.
Users will be notified by mail, email or other forms of communication if their coverage is changing. N.C. Medicaid will also hold webinars and post updates on social media, among other measures, to increase awareness.
Cassidy Estes-Rogers, an attorney and the program director in family support and health care at the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, said many families could lose coverage because they are not updating their personal information with the Medicaid system.
“The people who are most likely to lose are beneficiaries who may be still eligible but are terminated,” Estes-Rogers said.
She said many of these people could remain eligible if they kept their information about changes in address and other personal information up-to-date with their local social services office.
Despite this, Estes-Rogers said some North Carolina residents will still lose Medicaid coverage because they are no longer eligible. This includes people who have turned 19 since the COVID-19 health emergency began or people who have returned to work since being previously unemployed.
She said individuals who lose coverage will need to explore other options through the federal insurance marketplace.
“If they're unable to get into other types of coverage or they're underinsured, then we are obviously gonna see an effect on the quality of care,” Estes-Rogers said.
Although many North Carolinians could lose Medicaid coverage due to the unwinding process, some of those people may be covered under North Carolina’s proposed Medicaid expansion.
If this agreement, which is currently being debated in the N.C. General Assembly, becomes law, an additional 600,000 North Carolinians could receive coverage.
Lindsey Shewmaker, a human services manager at the Orange County Health Department, said she is confident this measure will move forward.
“What we are hoping in Orange County is that some of our clients who would lose benefits under the ending of the continuous coverage requirement will be able to pick up coverage through expanded Medicaid,” Shewmaker said.
However, Estes-Rogers said she acknowledges that the combination of the unwinding process and the Medicaid expansion plan will cause confusion for some families.
She added that County officials, who are in charge of managing individual cases of Medicaid, might also experience confusion.
During this time, Estes-Rogers said her organization’s main goal is sharing information with the public to ensure North Carolinians are receiving the correct benefits.
“The most important message that we want people to understand and that we are trying to get the word out on is to update your information and open those notices when you get them and respond to them,” Estes-Rogers said.
To continue their coverage, Medicaid users should work with their county's department of social services to ask questions and update contact information, including correct mailing address, phone number and email.
This information can also be updated online by opening an enhanced ePASS account at epass.nc.gov or at their local DSS.
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