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Kansas will resume Medicaid eligibility reviews after fixing issue that kicked off thousands

Photo Illustration - Carlos Moreno
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KCUR 89.3

Kansans unnecessarily lost Medicaid eligibility because of confusion over signatures, slow mail delivery and a lack of clear communication from the state. Some 12,000 adults or children eligible for the health coverage program were stripped of benefits due to processing issues.

Kansas has approximately four months left to finish a large-scale Medicaid review process, with more than 20,000 Kansans already deemed ineligible for health coverage.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, federal “continuous coverage” provisions meant Medicaid administrators couldn’t end health care eligibility unless the person in question moved away, died or asked to end coverage. Participation in KanCare, the Medicaid program in Kansas, increased from 410,000 to 540,000 people during the pandemic.

When federal protections ended, the nationwide process of determining Medicaid eligibility began in April for the first time in three years. The unwinding process has to be completed by early 2024.

Kansas Department of Health and Environment officials got a rocky start to unwinding, with Kansans unnecessarily losing eligibility due to issues such as confusion over signatures, slow mail delivery and a lack of clear communication from the state about what was needed for the renewal process.

Kansas administrators of the Medicaid program also estimated 12,000 adults or children eligible for the health coverage program were stripped of benefits dueto renewal processing issues.

The problem stemmed from using household-wide auto-renewals, instead of conducting individual renewals. The process resulted in some children being unenrolled because their parents no longer qualified.

Christine Osterlund, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s deputy secretary for agency integration and Medicaid, testified Wednesday to lawmakers on a health care committee about the department’s work to correct the issue.

“When we identified this individual versus household, even before CMS got involved and we wanted to make this change, we paused our August discontinuances,” Osterlund said.

KDHE also paused discontinuances in September while waiting for approval to change the state’s renewal process to a more individual review. Osterlund said the department had received approval for the changed renewal process and would resume sending renewal notices next week.

Preliminary data as of July 31 showed the state had sent out renewal notices to 283,709 people, with 69,876 approved for continuing Medicaid coverage and 78,850 people unenrolled.

The most recent data, as of August 31, shows the state has now sent 300,543 Kansans a renewal notice. Out of these people, 99,491 have been approved for re-enrollment and 22,474 Kansans have been discontinued.

Around 58,718 Kansans fall into a third category, in which they are eligible but didn’t submit their renewal notices within the mandated time frame. Kansans in this category have 90 days to submit a review and reinstate eligibility.

This story was originally published by the Kansas Reflector.

Copyright 2023 KCUR 89.3. To see more, visit KCUR 89.3.

Rachel Mipro