88.5 WMNF MidPoint: The Great Medicaid Unwinding

April 12, 2023 by Shelley Reback

In the early days of the Covid pandemic, the United States government did something extraordinary when it transformed itself into a European-style welfare state in a manner of weeks. Congress stepped up to make benefits like Medicaid and SNAP, or food stamps, more generous. It also created entirely new Federal benefits like paid sick-leave and caregiving leave and more free school lunches. And, it gave out nearly universal pandemic benefits like stimulus checks and child allowances to keep families and businesses afloat. All told, the government spent about $5 Trillion helping people and businesses from March 2020 to the present.

What is the Great Medicaid Unwinding?

Since then, most of these Federal benefits have been disbanded. But one of the longest-lasting benefits– an automatic renewal of Medicaid benefits for everyone who presumptively qualifies, has now also come to an end. For the first time in 3 years, Florida can begin removing people who don’t actually qualify for Medicaid, or, who may qualify but who have not properly completed the complicated registration process, from receiving their Medicaid benefits going forward. Millions of Floridians now must re-apply for their Medicaid coverage, and many may lose their coverage altogether and have to seek health insurance elsewhere. So, local healthcare advocates are gearing up to help the 5.7 million Floridians currently enrolled in Medicaid to navigate the now mandatory renewal process. Experts estimate that close to one million Floridians may now lose their Medicaid coverage and have to seek health insurance coverage elsewhere. However, the bigger problem is that many people currently enrolled in Medicaid may not even realize that they have been disenrolled from their benefits until they try to obtain medical services. For that reason, healthcare advocates are busy trying to get the message out that this non-renewal is happening, but also, that help is available to navigate the Medicaid reapplication process and the larger healthcare marketplace so that people can still maintain healthcare coverage for themselves and their families.

How Can People Find Help?

On MidPoint, we heard from Jodi Ray, Executive Director of Florida Covering Kids and Families at the University of South Florida, and Katie Roders Turner, Executive Director of the Family Healthcare Foundations. Both organizations are tasked with helping people find healthcare coverage, including Medicaid if they qualify for it, or public or private health insurance if they are ineligible for Medicaid. Healthcare navigators are available to assist people to find appropriate coverage throughout Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, and Polk counties.

The most important advice our experts offered to current Medicaid clients is to make sure that Medicaid has your current address and all your contact information is up to date, but to wait until you receive notification that your status is up for review and why it is being reviewed before taking any action regarding your coverage. A healthcare navigator can assist based on the information provided in your notification. Be on the lookout for the yellow-striped envelope with that information.

1. You can make an appointment in person or virtually with a Covering Florida navigator on its website www.coveringflorida.org or by calling 877-813-9115

2. Spanish-speaking Tampa Bay residents can get help from the Hispanic Services Council’s promotoras de salud by calling 813-936-7700 and learn more on its website www.hispanicservicescouncil.org

3. Family Healthcare Foundation has navigators in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, and Polk counties. Residents can schedule an appointment in person or virtually on its website www.familyhealthcarefdn.org or call 813-995-7005

4. The Florida Dept. of Children & Families Office of Economic Self-Sufficiency has a customer call center at 850-300-4323 that will refer you to local resources

5. And the Florida Dept. of Children & Families has how-to instructional videos about the process on its Medicaid redetermination webpage at www.myflfamilies.com

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