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Idaho State News

Uncertainty looms as nearly 150,000 Idahoans could lose Medicaid

Audrey Dutton | Idaho Capital Sun

As the pandemic gave way to the worst health crisis in modern history, emergency rules kept Idahoans and other Americans from losing Medicaid coverage — regardless of changes in their income or life circumstances.

The COVID-19 situation has changed in the U.S., and that guarantee of ongoing Medicaid coverage will end on April 1. As many as 150,000 Idahoans could be removed from Medicaid, if they are no longer eligible for the public health insurance program.

That doesn’t necessarily mean those Idahoans will have no access to health care. However, it is likely to cause disruptions as the state attempts to reach those affected to let them know their options.

There are nearly 450,000 people enrolled in Idaho Medicaid, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Of those, the department believes that about 150,000 no longer qualify — due to higher income, for example.

The number of people on Medicaid fluctuates every month. The average enrollment in the 2022 fiscal year was about 415,000 — up from about 380,000 in the 2021 fiscal year.

Idaho’s current Medicaid program pays for health care for low-income children and adults and people with disabilities. For people whose incomes are now too high for Medicaid, subsidized health insurance plans are available on the Your Health Idaho exchange.

From this month through July, the department will notify 30,000 Idahoans per month of their pending loss of coverage.

Those Idahoans will have options for ongoing health care.

But Idaho will give them only 60 days to either contact Medicaid for re-evaluation or enroll in a plan with Idaho’s state-based insurance exchange, Your Health Idaho.

That is a much shorter timeframe than will be provided to residents of more than 30 states — states that use the federal exchange. Residents of those states who lose Medicaid coverage will have until July 31, 2024, to choose a private insurance plan.

Medicaid is now Idaho’s largest budget. The Legislature is currently tasked with evaluating the program’s spending and the effects of Medicaid expansion.

House and Senate health and welfare committees were scheduled to hear presentations Monday, Feb. 6, from the Idaho Division of Financial Management and consultants on Medicaid cost containment.

The committees are expected to issue a recommendation soon to the Idaho Legislature on whether to make alterations to Medicaid expansion, which was approved by a vote of more than 60% in Idaho’s 2018 general election.