As US ends pandemic-era policies, more than 50,000 Kansans lost Medicaid coverage

More than 50,000 Kansans have lost their Medicaid benefits as the state ends pandemic era policies that kept thousands on the rolls even if they’d neglected paperwork or lost eligibility.

The loss in coverage comes as states across the country dismantle pandemic-era policies. This indicates the Kelly administration has struggled to get people to complete applications needed to retain eligibility and underscore concerns that eligible Kansans will continue to lose health coverage over the next several months.

“This process also highlights why we must expand Medicaid. If we had already expanded Medicaid, more Kansans would be keeping their health coverage, more rural hospitals would stay open, and more health care workers would live and work in our communities,” Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly said in a statement.

According to data released by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment last week, the agency has sent more than 200,000 Medicaid renewal applications to beneficiaries. The program serves low income and disabled Kansans.

Of those, 5,667 Kansans were deemed to be ineligible to continue receiving Medicaid, while KDHE approved 22,473 applicants.

Another 45,820 lost their coverage because they failed to submit their renewal applications. These individuals can receive back-benefits if they apply and are accepted within 90 days of losing coverage.

More than half of the recipients who received renewal notices have not been processed yet because of extensions provided to applicants because of mailing delays.

Of the renewals that have been processed, 70% of applicants have lost coverage. Nearly 90% of those who lost coverage did so for procedural reasons, not because they were ineligible.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Kansas has disenrolled the second highest percentage of applicants among states reporting data. It is tied with Indiana for the highest proportion of disenrollments based upon procedural issues.

Missouri has not yet released any data on disenrollment.

Before data began to become available state officials predicted that around 125,000 Kansans could lose coverage and that 100,000 of those would still be eligible if the state had expanded Medicaid.

Kansas is one of 10 states that have refused to expand Medicaid since the program was first approved under the Affordable Care Act. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has offered a bill to expand the program every year since she became governor in 2018 but has been consistently thwarted by a GOP-controlled Legislature.

Kansas’ Medicaid program, called KanCare, has more than 500,000 beneficiaries compared to about 400,000 before the pandemic. Missouri’s Medicaid enrollment grew from just under 900,000 in March 2020 to 1.5 million as of March 2023, according to state data compiled by Washington University in St. Louis.

Congress in December passed a budget bill requiring states to once again verify the eligibility of recipients – a process that’s being called the “unwinding” as participants are kicked off. For months, health officials have been scrambling to get the word out to enrollees to give them time to prepare and, if possible, look for alternative coverage.

The Kelly administration has been working to ramp up its messaging to encourage Kansans to fill out their paperwork but early data indicates they have significantly more work to do. Nearly a quarter of the Kansans who received a renewal application lost coverage for failure to respond.

“We are working diligently to expand access to affordable health care in Kansas, including by spreading the word that every Kansan who receives a Medicaid redetermination packet should be complete and return the materials as quickly as possible. No. Kansan should unnecessarily lose their health insurance,” Kelly said in a statement, Monday.

The Star’s Jonathan Shorman contributed to this report.

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