Idaho Dropped Thousands From Medicaid in the Pandemic’s First Years

by | Mar 1, 2023 | Health

During the first two years of the covid-19 pandemic, while the federal government was trying to prevent people on Medicaid from losing health coverage, Idaho dropped nearly 10,000 people from the safety-net program.

Federal law generally banned states from dropping people, and federal officials said Idaho acted improperly. Idaho officials, however, said they didn’t think they did anything wrong.

The episode, revealed in documents KHN obtained through a public records request and in interviews with state officials, offers a preview of what could soon unfold across the United States for millions of people covered through Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for people with low incomes.

It shows how easily state bureaucracies can disenroll people they shouldn’t be disenrolling, leaving those people in financial and medical jeopardy. It also illustrates the potential for confusion and disagreement over what procedures states should follow before cutting off anyone’s benefits, particularly when enrollees can’t be reached.

A covid relief law Congress enacted in 2020 prohibited states from removing people from Medicaid except in a few narrow circumstances, such as if an enrollee died or moved out of state.

On April 1 of this year, after the prohibition expires, states will resume removing people who no longer qualify or do not furnish needed information. That process has come to be known as the “unwinding.” Some states see the end of the mandate as a chance to quickly winnow Medicaid rolls that have grown to record levels.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little was among 25 Republican governors who told President Joe Biden in a December letter that, by keeping ineligible people …

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