“Thousands of Rhode Islanders are set to lose their Medicaid coverage starting in April if the state does not act. Terminating a working person’s health care coverage during the middle of the year is absolutely wrong as it will only disrupt their medical care and ultimately hurt their finances and health,” Representative Morales said. “Therefore, we must do everything we can to support our working people and families by passing this legislation, investing in the Department of Human Services, and ensuring that everyone is allowed to remain on Medicaid until the end of the year. The last thing I want is for someone to visit the doctor’s office and find out that they’re no longer covered by Medicaid and the benefits that come with it. The termination of people’s Medicaid is an emergency we cannot take lightly.”
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed by former President Trump in 2020, forbids states from dropping enrollees from Medicaid coverage during the public health emergency that was first declared in January 2020. That public health emergency has been renewed every 90 days since. However, a December 2022 bill to fund the federal government included a provision that would sunset the Medicaid provision as of April 1, 2023. At that point, states may terminate a person’s Medicaid coverage if they no longer meet eligibility criteria.
That, advocates say, does not give those individuals much time to process what it means to lose Medicaid benefits and understand their options. Many individuals who do not follow the news closely and have not had to renew their application in three years may be unaware of the changing requirements. Similarly, the Department of Human Services may have issues reaching a Medicaid recipient and informing them of their eligibility status.
Though Governor McKee’s budget proposal includes $2.6 million in funding to assist individuals dropped by Medicaid to enroll for private insurance through the state’s health care exchange, Representative Morales says that this approach comes with its own set of problems.
“While I appreciate the governor’s proposed investment to automatically enroll individuals who are terminated from Medicaid into a ‘qualified public health plan,’ we need to be clear. These health care plans are not nearly as comprehensive as Medicaid. Instead, working people will now be forced to deal with deductibles, copayments, and other out-of-pocket costs for vital medical and dental services. Just imagine being able to access your prescription drugs for free and then suddenly you’re required to pay an expensive copayment because of your new health care plan,” Representative Morales said. “It doesn’t have to be this way.”