More than 50,000 Tarrant County residents, almost all of them new moms, children, and young adults, will lose health insurance coverage in the coming months as the state begins reevaluating the 5.9 million people enrolled in the Medicaid health insurance program in Texas.
March 31 marked the end of the Medicaid continuous enrollment requirement, a pandemic-era policy that required anyone who received Medicaid health insurance to remain enrolled in the program throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But now that requirement has ended, Texas and other states will be reviewing Medicaid participants to see who is no longer eligible, either because they have turned 18, because their family’s income has increased, or because it has been more than two months since they gave birth to their baby.
In Tarrant County, researchers estimate between 50,000 and 66,000 people will no longer be eligible for Medicaid and will be removed from the program, according to an analysis from Laura Dague and Ben Ukert at Texas A&M University. Many of the children who are no longer eligible for Medicaid can qualify for other health insurance programs, such as CHIP. Others could receive cheap or even free health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace. But advocates say children and new moms who lose Medicaid need both the information and the assistance to get enrolled in a different plan. Otherwise, they’ll likely go without that coverage.
“This is a monumental task in the best of circumstances, and we know that we’re not in the best of circumstances right now,” said Diana Forester, the director of health policy at the nonprofit Texans Care for Children.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the agency responsible for reviewing whether Texans are still eligible for Medicaid, has more than 300 vacant positions, Forester said. The agency already has a backlog of new Medicaid applications that have to review, on top of reviewing the existing participants to see if they remain eligible.
On top of that, the Texas 2-1-1 hotline, which is one of the primary ways that Texans can update their address and income information to help with the Medicaid eligibility process, has been experiencing technical difficulties since March 22.
In a statement, a spokesman for the commission said “2-1-1 is operational, and we are making progress on technical adjustments needed to restore full functionality.”
No one will begin losing their Medicaid health insurance until June 1, according to the commission. New mothers who received Medicaid health insurance during their pregnancy will be the first group of Medicaid recipients to have their cases reevaluated. Most adults without disabilities are not eligible for Medicaid in Texas, meaning most of these new moms will lose their health insurance through Medicaid unless they are pregnant against or have recently given birth to another child.
Anyone with Medicaid health insurance should make sure the state has their most up-to-date information, so they don’t miss important notices or alerts in the mail. To update your information, you can call 2-1-1 or else visit YourTexasBenefits.org.