WASHINGTON — Medicaid’s continuous renewal policy will conclude as the COVID-19 pandemic relief program comes to an end in the spring. Instead, states will have until May 2024 to check people’s enrollment for Medicaid and CHIP. Child advocates are worried this could lead to a lapse in coverage due to a haphazard or punitive re-qualification process for recipients.
According to a report from the Georgetown Center for Children and Families, almost half of Virginia’s children are covered by both programs.
One of the bigger challenges has been a misconception that this removes everyone, according to Sara Cariano with the Virginia Poverty Law Center. Instead, this is a return to the pre-pandemic system. Cariano said staffing issues at the Department of Social Services present an additional challenge.
“One concern that we have is really the staffing and manpower to complete the additional work that’s going to be necessary,” she said. “And if that creates a backlog, then not just renewals but new applications coming in can’t get processed on time.”
There could be a ripple effect since these are the same people administering SNAP and other benefit programs, she said. The report also finds an estimated three in four children will likely lose coverage once emergency protections end this spring. But, these kids will still be eligible for Medicaid or CHIP. Virginia’s renewal process will begin next month.
A report from the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation finds 8.2-million people will lose Medicaid eligibility. Joan Alker, with the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, said states should have been preparing for the pandemic health emergency’s end.
“Now that’s lifting in the next 6 to 12 months, we’re going to see what happens. I think — unfortunately, most researchers agree — we are going to see millions more children becoming uninsured. But it’s not a foregone conclusion. It’s all about how the states handle this,” Alker said.
She added updating the enrollment renewal process for Medicaid and CHIP should have been priorities, and said states should not rush the process since this could lead to more mistakes and more people losing coverage than keeping it.