Up to 15 million people nationwide are expected to lose their Medicaid coverage in the coming weeks and months.
Over the past three years, people enrolled in Medicaid did not need to recertify their income eligibility to maintain coverage. States were required to keep people continuously enrolled through the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency in exchange for enhanced federal funding.
That policy came to an end April 1. Now, states are “unwinding” people who still meet state Medicaid eligibility requirements from those who don’t.
Enrollment in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) ballooned by an estimated 23.3 million enrollees — to nearly 95 million — between February 2020 and March 2023, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Five states began the unenrollment process April 1 — Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, New Hampshire and South Dakota — and nearly all other states will begin removing beneficiaries in May and June. States are expected to take up to 12 months to complete the unwinding process.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is working alongside states to inform people about renewing their coverage and exploring other available health insurance if they no longer qualify for Medicaid or CHIP.
Still, health care advocates and other stakeholders are concerned about the sheer number of people who may lose health insurance in the months ahead.
In particular, people who have moved, people with limited English proficiency and those with disabilities will be at increased risk of losing Medicaid or experiencing a gap in coverage, according to KFF.
3 Things You Need to Know About Medicaid Unenrollment
If you believe you might be at risk of losing your Medicaid coverage, there’s certain steps you can take.
How Will I Be Notified?
Many states have already started sending out renewal and recertification forms in the mail to Medicaid beneficiaries.
You’ll have at least 30 days to fill out the form and mail it back. If you don’t complete the paperwork, your state can cancel your Medicaid coverage.
The federal government is requiring states to contact you in another way — either by phone, text message or email — to remind you to submit the form.
But you might not get notified if your contact information is outdated.
That’s why it’s important to check and make sure your information is correct.
You can update your details in a few simple steps by visiting your state’s online Medicaid portal, where you can verify your phone number, mailing address and email address so you can stay informed about changes.
You can find the link to your state agency, along with information about how to renew Medicaid or CHIP, by using this interactive map at Medicaid.gov.
When Will Coverage End?
It’s different in each state. Some states are checking eligibility faster than others.
State agencies are generally looking to verify your income, address and whether you’ve had a change in the number of dependents in your household.
Some enrollees could be renewed automatically if states verify eligibility using income data from other sources, such as the Internal Revenue Service.
But even for states that began the unenrollment process April 1, the rollback won’t happen all at once. You still have time to renew your coverage or reach out with questions.
You can find a directory of organizations that can help you navigate the Medicaid renewal process at Localhelp.healthcare.gov.
What Options Do I Have If I Lose Medicaid Coverage?
If a change in income or other circumstance causes you to lose your Medicaid coverage, you may still be eligible for other programs.
Your best option is to explore health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act’s Health Care Marketplace at healthcare.gov. (Here’s an explainer on how to sign up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act.)
Expanded government subsidies mean you might be able to find health care coverage options that cost less than $10 a month.
Still, plans available on the marketplace may come with higher co-pays and out-of-pocket costs than Medicaid.
A special enrollment period gives you up to 60 days to enroll in a marketplace plan after losing your Medicaid coverage.
People who live in the 40 states that have expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act may find other affordable health care options, such as Your Health Idaho or Apple Health in Washington state.
However, people in the 10 states that never expanded Medicaid may find themselves in a coverage gap — not eligible for subsidized insurance but also unable to qualify for Medicaid.
You can also explore these health insurance coverage options.
- If you’re employed: Talk to your employer or human resources department to see if you can sign up for health insurance.
- If you’re married or partnered: See if you can be added to your partner’s workplace health insurance plan.
- If you’re younger than 26: You may be able to switch to your parent’s insurance.
- If you have children: Even if you’re no longer eligible for Medicaid, your child may still qualify for health insurance through CHIP. This program covers children whose families make too much to qualify for Medicaid but don’t earn enough to afford private health insurance.
Rachel Christian is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a senior writer at Codetic. She focuses on retirement, investing, life insurance and taxes.