Countless Florida residents could lose Medicaid health insurance coverage

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Countless Florida residents are in jeopardy of being dropped from the Medicaid program, a federally subsidized health insurance designed for low-income individuals and families.

Experts say residents who receive Medicaid insurance should be on the look for an envelope with a yellow stripe or an email seeking information that will be sent 45 days prior to a recipient’s renewal date.

Those whom the state cannot renew because they lack up-to-date income information or because they are deemed ineligible will receive a 45-day notice by letter or email. They will then have 90 days to reapply if they believe they are still eligible.

“Individuals need to be mindful of when their redetermination is,” said Jodi A. Ray, director of Florida Covering Kids & Families, College of Public Health, University of South Florida in Tampa. “We don’t want people to panic and try to do the recertification ahead of time because if they do, it could mess up their redetermination.”

Florida Covering Kids & Families is one of many organizations available to offer assistance to those in need.

“Our organization focuses on connecting individuals to health coverage and helping them navigate the healthcare system,” said Ray. “Our job is to outreach, educate consumers about coverage options that they have under Medicaid and Health Insurance Marketplace.”

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During the COVID public health emergency as a requirement to receive additional funding from the federal government, Florida has provided continuous Medicaid coverage and has not disenrolled ineligible recipients. The measure was intended to ensure low-income families could afford medical treatment during the public health emergency.

That policy expired on March 31, and the Florida Department of Children and Families, which manages Medicaid coverage for Florida residents, is beginning the process of determining who is eligible to stay on and who is not.

“We didn’t want health care to be a deterrent for folks who were experiencing issues with COVID and didn’t take care that they needed,” said Ray. “But now, you know, with the changes and the pandemic, at this point, the states now have to come up with a plan. Each month they’ve got to go through a set target of individuals that may or may not be eligible. For the people that are ineligible we hope they’ll get referred to the Health Insurance Marketplace. We have people ready to help all these folks navigate the complex system of coverage.”

Florida’s Medicaid program covers children ages 5 and younger in households that make $33,408 or less and older children whose parents make up to $31,795. There is no coverage for parents who earn more than $7,000 per year, and adults with no children are ineligible no matter how little they earn. Families can become ineligible due to a change in income, such as from a new job or a pay raise.

Anne Rose, vice president, chief revenue cycle executive with Lee Health, said statewide around 5 million people currently have coverage and 900,000 could be dropped.

“We don’t know what the impact will be,” said Rose. “We know that every state in the country is having to redefine if the coverage that was extended during the Public Health Emergency, if they still meet the eligibility threshold. We hope that the vast majority of recipients will continue to qualify for Medicaid coverage. But until that redetermination process rolls out and we begin to see a number of Medicaid enrollees we don’t know how many will be impacted.”

Mary Briggs, systems director for strategic communications for Lee Health, said there are options for residents.

“We’re here to assist people in getting health care,” said Briggs. “There are a number of Lee Community Health Care locations, which are federally designated community health centers, so people can come in and get to see a doctor for as little as $10.”

Erica Van Buren is the underserved communities reporter for The News-Press and Naples Daily News, part of the USA TODAY Network. Connect with her at EVAnBuren@gannett.com or on Twitter: @EricaVanBuren32

This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Florida low-income residents are at risk of losing Medicaid coverage