Medicaid renewals are back! Act now to protect your health care coverage
Big changes are coming for Medicaid recipients! People who are on Medicaid must take action now to preserve their benefits or find new health insurance.
Tory Schafer of Highview Insurance sat down with Meg Wallace of Mobilize Waco to explain these important changes. Meg asked Tory questions as though she were a Medicaid recipient who has been hearing about changes in Medicaid.
Meg: I keep hearing about people getting a letter saying they need to renew their Medicaid. What is this all about?
Tory: Medicaid has income and asset limits. You have to stay within those limits to maintain eligibility in the program. The state periodically needs to review your finances to be sure you’re still eligible.
M. I’ve gotten a letter like this more than once in the past couple of years, and when I called Medicaid they said don’t worry about it. Has something changed?
T. Yes. During the pandemic millions of people lost their jobs in a short amount of time, and the government was concerned about people losing health insurance. So during the Covid Public Health Emergency, the government paused disenrollment in Medicaid. As long as the Covid Public Health Emergency lasted, people wouldn’t have to provide their financial information and recertify. They could stay on Medicaid without doing that.
The Covid Public Health Emergency is ending this spring, so Medicaid will start what is called redetermination. That means Medicaid will once again need to review your finances to see if you’re still eligible. They are starting this process now!
M. So I need to watch for this letter!
T. If you haven’t received a letter about your Medicaid recently, you need to make sure Health and Human Services has your correct address. At YourTexasBenefits.com you can see if they have your current address on file and update it if you need to.
M. OK, I’ll check on that. Then, when I get the letter about my Medicaid, what do I do next?
T. Follow the instructions in the letter to reapply for a new period of benefits. The letter should tell you what you need to submit and how to submit it.
But even if you don’t get a letter, if you receive Medicaid, you need to take care of this, and there are people in Waco who can help.
M. Oh, thank goodness, because this stuff gets confusing. Who can help me if I need help?
T. In the Waco area, Heart of Texas Goodwill and Shepherd’s Heart will have staff assigned to help people submit their information. Call Heart of Texas Goodwill at 254-753-7337 or Shepherd’s Heart at 254-213-7833.
M. Thank you. I’m writing that down now! This change is going to affect so many people. Should we be worried?
T. Yes, we should. If people don’t follow through with this process, they will lose their Medicaid benefits. So please spread the word. If you know anyone on Medicaid, let them know they must recertify this time around.
Many people will still qualify for Medicaid, but some people will find out they’re no longer eligible.
M. Yikes! Who might that happen to?
T. Four groups of people are likely to find out they’re no longer eligible.
First, adults who were briefly unemployed during the pandemic and began receiving Medicaid as a result may have income now, so they won’t be eligible for Medicaid anymore.
Second, women who received pregnancy Medicaid during the pandemic and have since given birth will no longer be eligible.
Third, young adults who were on children’s Medicaid at the start of the pandemic and who have since turned 19 are now too old for children’s Medicaid.
Fourth, children who were receiving children’s Medicaid during the pandemic because their parents’ income was lower, may become ineligible because their parents’ income is too high now.
M. Wow. That’s a lot of people. What can they do if they aren’t eligible for Medicaid anymore?
T. It depends. Some people will be eligible for other health insurance programs, and some will not. But many people don’t even try to get health insurance because they think it’s too expensive or they won’t be eligible. This is a big mistake.
If you’re eligible for employer-paid benefits, your first step is to talk to the person in charge of benefits where you work. Your special enrollment period may last only 60 days after you lose Medicaid.
If you can’t get affordable health insurance through your employer, there’s a good chance marketplace insurance will work for you. Right now, because of new federal funding, more people than ever before who have limited income are eligible for ACA insurance with premiums less than $20 per month, and with low or no deductibles or copays.
If you can’t get coverage in one of those two ways, there are also local options such as Indigent Health Care and the Waco Family Medicine Good Health Card.
M. I had no idea there were so many possibilities. Who can help me look at my options?
T. We’ve built a website called Unlock Healthcare, at www.unlockhealth.care, to provide information about these health insurance programs, along with contact information for local people who can help.
M. OK. So I think it’s going to be all right. I just need to follow through.
T. That’s right. There really are a lot of good options. But now is the time to take action.
Tory Schafer is the owner of Highview Insurance and the primary builder of Unlock Healthcare.
Meg Wallace is the organizer and director of Mobilize Waco, formerly known as the Amberley Collaborative. Mobilize Waco is a disability justice coalition that works toward full participation and leadership by people with disabilities in the Waco area.