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Why 86,000 Granite Staters could lose Medicaid when the federal public health emergency ends

  • The State House dome as seen on March 5, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ

New Hampshire Public Radio 
Published: 1/21/2022 4:05:26 PM
Modified: 1/21/2022 4:04:21 PM

Though the conclusion of the federal public health emergency is unclear, thousands of Granite Staters could lose their Medicaid coverage when it ends, state officials said on Wednesday.

Protections under the federal declaration mean Granite Staters do not have to prove their eligibility to remain covered by Medicaid. When the federal public health emergency is over, those eligibility requirements will be reimplemented.

The majority of those at risk of losing their coverage have overdue forms or missing information. A smaller number are expected to no longer be eligible for the program when protections end.

Medicaid enrollment in New Hampshire has increased by around 30 percent since the start of pandemic protections.

Growth has been most significant in the Granite Advantage program, which is Medicaid expansion for low-income residents.

State officials estimated Wednesday on a call with over 200 health providers and community members that 86,000 Granite Staters currently risk losing their coverage when the federal public health emergency ends. That’s 37 percent of people in the state currently on Medicaid.

To alert people who are at risk of losing coverage, the state continues to send out pink forms to Medicaid users, urging people to get their information into the state as soon as they can. The forms also exist virtually, if people have an NH Easy account.

Getting information in now, officials say, can help secure coverage after federal protections end. New Hampshire will be notified by the federal government at least 60 days before the public health emergency ends.

But some people will lose their coverage when protection ends because they no longer qualify.

Jeremy Smith and Elias Ashooh, who lead the state’s two insurance navigator programs, say interested people can contact them for help in finding other insurance options and avoiding a gap in health insurance coverage.

State-contracted workers have also started calling some Medicaid recipients at risk of losing coverage, focusing on residents in long term care and people with disabilities. The phone calls have a significantly higher success rate than the paper forms, state officials said.

New Hampshire Medicaid Director Henry Lipman said the state has received new funding to hire more staff to help with phone services. Some at Wednesday’s meeting flagged the difficulty their clients are having getting through to the department with questions.

“We are dealing with workforce shortages ourselves in terms of existing staff,” Lipman said. “But we are trying our best to improve that service.”

Lipman and other officials expect call volume will skyrocket further when the public health emergency does draw to a close, and he urges people to avoid waiting until then to recertify.

Normally, Granite Staters on the program have to complete a yearly redetermination form, and other criteria for qualification, like income, have to be certified even more frequently.

That means some Granite Staters are constantly losing and regaining coverage, especially those who may work seasonal jobs where their income fluctuates. This “churn” has been largely paused, with the administrative barriers of maintaining coverage still on pause.

In some cases, people have lost their coverage during this protected period when they shouldn't have. State officials say they encourage people to reach out if they believe that has been the case.

If people have questions, they can email the department directly at continuedcoverage@dhhs.nh.gov or call at 603-271-9700.

 

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org. 


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