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About a million Floridians are getting kicked off Medicaid, here's how that could affect the state

About 1 million Floridians will soon lose Medicaid coverage in April due to the end of the Public Health Emergency’s continuous enrollment provision.

In December, President Joe Biden signed into law the 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which brought an end to the Public Health Emergency provision that required states to provide continuous Medicaid without removing individuals.

Continuous Medicaid enrollment began as people lost their jobs due to COVID-19 regulations at the start of the pandemic with many of those jobs being in the restaurant and hospitality industries, said Meredith Robertson, a UCF Health Insurance Associate Professor.

“Back then, their income was much lower and so they would qualify for Medicaid, but likely today, they have a new job, and so now their income is higher, so they're going to lose that eligibility,” she said.

How it affects Florida

In Florida, the number of individuals and families seeking Medicaid assistance rose from 3.8 million to 5.5 million between March 2020 and last November.

The Urban Institute, a Washington D.C. think tank, estimates about 18 million people throughout the nation will lose Medicaid coverage in April — about 3.2 million of those will be children. However, about 9.5 million people will probably get employer-sponsored insurance, Robertson said.

Estimates on how many Floridians will be no longer eligible vary between 900,000 and 1.75 million residents.

"One of the biggest differences to keep in mind is that Florida is one of the few states that has not expanded Medicaid," Robertson said. "And so in some states, the income level of eligibility is much higher than it would be in Florida, and it includes coverage of people like those 19 to 20-year-olds. Whereas in the state of Florida, those individuals would no longer qualify for Medicaid."

The cost

Photo: Randy Fine, Florida House of Representatives
Photo: Randy Fine, Florida House of Representatives

The end of the Medicaid provision comes as good news to some lawmakers citing the cost burden on the state. Medicaid costs Florida around $230 per person a month — an expense Senator Randy Fine said extended to those who might not need Medicaid anymore.

“If you qualified for Medicaid at the beginning of the pandemic, and then got a job, we have been paying $223 a month for you and your family you had for people $800 a month, and no one has been benefiting from that except the Medicaid managed care,” Fine said.

By cutting the provision, Florida would save $1 billion, Fine said, money he’d like to see spent in other sectors.

“We could spend it on education or roads or the environment or we could cut taxes by a billion dollars or we could put it in the piggy bank for a rainy day but this is a billion dollars plus of expenditures, we will not have,” he said.

When it comes to the question of expanding Medicaid, Fine said there was no room for that notion in Florida.

"The reason for that is Medicaid largely protects those who have children and, or are unable to work," he said. "If you are an able-bodied adult without children, the way to get insurance is to get a job."

The ineligible

Not all Central Florida lawmakers feel the same. Senator Geraldine Thompson is concerned about those whose income is just barely over the threshold for Medicaid eligibility; a population she refers to as the working poor.

“They don't make enough for their own private insurance, which is kind of being caught in the middle, and when the public emergency goes away, they're left stuck,” she said. “And a lot of these will be women and children and particularly postpartum women, and young adults. They’ll be the hardest hit.”

State Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando. Image: Florida Channel
State Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando. Image: Florida Channel

Thompson's big concern is whether or not individuals of this group can be reached in time before they're in need of insurance. If they're hurt or sick and arrive in the hospital without insurance they may be in danger of falling into a very expensive problem, Thompson said.

"Without health coverage, people use the emergency rooms as the first point of contact for healthcare. And emergency rooms are the most expensive form of healthcare," she said.

The Department of Children and Families is tasked with informing at least 900,000 ineligible people of their status — a task the department may not have the manpower for, Thompson said.

“Well, we have technology that can handle the number of calls and it and you know, just what we experienced with reemployment assistance has made me very concerned that that the department may not be able to handle the volume because it's all coming in at one time,” she said. "That's the mountain that DCF is trying to climb."

 The Zora Neal Hurtson building off Robinson Road where the Department of Children and Family in Orlando is located. DCF will be tasked with informing individuals who are no longer eligible for Medicaid of their status.
Joe Mario Pedersen
The Zora Neal Hurtson building off Robinson Road where the Department of Children and Family in Orlando is located. DCF will be tasked with informing individuals who are no longer eligible for Medicaid of their status.

There are about 40 non-profit healthcare advocacy organizations that are working with the state to lighten DCF’s load, Thompson said. However, she fears it's not enough, and the state should lead an education initiative

to inform people about the coming changes and what options are available.

"If we don't complete this we're gonna have a lot of people who are just kind of dangling in the wind," she said.

If DCF determines someone as ineligible, they’ll be offered a plan from the Affordable Care Act’s Marketplace, which will be given a special extension for those being removed from Medicaid. Children will automatically transfer to the Florida Healthy Kids program or other subsidized programs depending on their age.

What to do if you're on Medicaid

If someone is unsure of their eligibility, officials recommend calling DCF or the Department of Health to discuss their status and what options are available.

Also, it's important to make sure a resident's mail address is up-to-date with DCF so they can send updates on a resident's status.

DCF - 407-317-7000

Department of Health - 1-877-888-7468

You can also look for health insurance plans available in the marketplace via the Affordable Care Act by visiting Healthcare.gov.
Copyright 2023 WMFE. To see more, visit WMFE.

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