Eligible families losing Medicaid benefits following end of pandemic protections

Eligible families losing Medicaid benefits following the end of pandemic protections
Published: Nov. 2, 2023 at 11:29 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) -This year, for the first time since the start of the pandemic, the Department of Health and Human Services has been re-checking eligibility for Texans with Medicaid. Hundreds of thousands of families have lost coverage, however, according to experts, rejected families are, in most cases, technically still eligible for benefits.

Emily Stringer is a mother of three, and she said it’s been frustrating losing health coverage this year for all three of her children.

“It’s very disheartening to not have that security of just I can take care of my kids if they get sick "

She says in the years before the pandemic, whenever she had to do her renewal process for Medicaid, her experience had been smooth.

“Before, it was a lot easier to get a hold of someone, to get an interview, to get a response.”

However, after submitting her case this year, things felt different.

“It’s like they didn’t even look at it.”

During the pandemic, federal regulations prohibited states from cutting people from Medicaid. However, these protections were lifted in April of this year and since then, HHSC has been re-checking families eligibility. Many have lost their benefits.

Senior Policy Analyst at Every Texan, Stacey Pogue has studied the Medicaid unwinding trends happening to families across Texas this year and she says the number are alarming.

“1.2 million Texans have been removed from Medicaid. And the alarming part about that is two out of three of them never had their eligibility determined by the state,” Pogue said.

According to health policy research organization KFF, Texas has removed a higher percentage of people from Medicaid than any other reporting state in the nation. Children make up about 80% of those disenrolled.

When asked why the numbers are so high, Pogue said she believes it’s because the system was not ready for the number of renewals it was resuming this year.

“I don’t think there’s any question that the planning and resources and computer systems and staffing were in no way ready for or adequate for the tidal wave of renewals that Texas planned,” Pogue said.

She added that reports by the HHSC showed that in July, August, and September, the state sent in just three months the number of renewals that it would’ve normally sent in a full year before the pandemic.

In East Texas, local agencies like the Children’s Defense Fund Texas say they’re trying everything they can to help. Program Director Cindy Ross said they want to help as many families as they can.

“You can go to agencies just like us to get your applications done any type of way so that we can save as many kids as we possibly can for Medicaid,” Ross said.

They say, now more than ever, it’s important to be persistent and not give up.

“But we have to be that advocate for those families and say, no, we’re not going to stop.”

If you have any questions regarding your benefits status or need help renewing or applying, the Children’s Defense Fund in East Texas accepts walk-ins at their office. You can find their office at 5610 Old Bullard Rd, Unit 202 Tyler TX 75703. Click here for more information.