Let’s work together to maintain it
Have you ever shown up to a pharmacy and been told your insurance expired so you can’t get your meds? Get a bill after a visit to the doctor that was much larger than you expected?
For those who get health coverage through Medicaid (called Medical Assistance in Minnesota) or MinnesotaCare, that may start happening more frequently in 2023. That’s because a COVID-19 policy impacting our healthcare coverage is ending.
All states, including Minnesota, received money from the federal government to keep people on their Medicaid coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic. This meant that even if something changed in people’s lives that previously would have affected their eligibility—like making a bit more money one month or getting an offer for health insurance from your employer—states could not kick you off your Medicaid coverage.
But with the sense in Washington that it’s time to end the COVID-19 public health emergency, a recent federal law ends this policy. States must start the process of checking to see if everyone on Medicaid is eligible for ongoing healthcare coverage from the state.
This means over the next 15 months one in four, roughly 1.5 million, Minnesotans will have to submit paperwork to renew their coverage that shows they meet the government’s eligibility rules. This is also coming at a time when testing, doctors’ visits, vaccines, and medication to treat COVID-19 will start to come with price tags that they haven’t had since the start of the pandemic.
We know all of these changes will impact our community even more—recent data show that 42% of Black Minnesotans under age 65 get their health care from Medicaid, and that number rises when we look at our children (58%) and mothers/birthing persons (80%).
It’s therefore critical we get the word out early and often while working together to make sure folks don’t lose access to lifesaving care or get stuck with big, avoidable medical bills as a result.
Some glitches are inevitable
The state’s priority is to make sure every person who has Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare keeps their insurance if they’re still eligible. If they’re not, we want to help connect them to different health insurance options so there is no gap in coverage.
However, we know that some portion of enrollees who are still eligible for coverage may lose their health insurance due to issues with the renewal process, like not receiving or recognizing the notice in the mail, failing to return paperwork on time, paperwork getting lost, or other administrative issues unrelated to their actual eligibility.
Based on what we saw before the pandemic we expect up to half of enrollees who lose healthcare coverage to eventually re-enroll. However, we also know these drops in coverage historically have disproportionately happened to Black, Native, Hispanic and Asian Minnesotans as well as those who don’t speak English as a first language.
And right now, roughly 40 percent of Minnesota children are covered by our state health insurance, so drops in coverage for them can lead to troubles with preventive screenings for sports, camps, and other activities, getting shots for school, and keeping them healthy from the very start. This all has the potential to compound Minnesota’s existing racial disparities in health outcomes, which are among the worst in the nation.
How can you get ready?
So, how can you make sure you’re in the best position to keep your or a loved one’s coverage? We’re hoping you’ll take some steps to prepare before your renewal and reach out for help if you need it.
The most important thing that you or a loved one who has Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare can do right now is update your contact information so we can reach you when it’s your time to renew. The important paperwork you’ll need to fill out and return to keep your insurance will be mailed to your current address on file. We’ll also text you when it’s time to watch for your paperwork in the mail and remind you to return it.
Accurate contact information is therefore very important for people who’ve moved or gotten a new email or phone number since enrolling. You can update your contact information with your county, Tribal agency or health plan (if you work with one like UCare, BlueCross, HennepinHealth, etc.).
Next, check out the Medicaid renewal resources available on the state’s new webpage mn.gov/dhs/renewmycoverage. You’ll find information on how to prepare for your renewal, answers to frequently asked questions, and how to sign up for news and updates.
Third, reach out with any questions. If you want to sit down with an expert, navigators are available in the community to answer questions and help you fill out the renewal paperwork. You may have already worked with navigators at your clinic, your child’s school, or through a local organization (like Briva Health or Community Action Partnership).
If not, and you know you may need some help filling out the paperwork or making sure it gets where it needs to on time, you can search for a navigator near you on MNsure, Minnesota’s health insurance marketplace. Hundreds of navigators who speak a wide variety of languages are ready to assist you. Services from MNsure-certified navigators are always free.
What happens next
Starting this April DHS will send out paperwork that needs to be completed to a group of enrollees each month. What group you or a loved one are in will depend on what month you initially signed up for coverage and what type of coverage you have.
Renewals for people who have MinnesotaCare will resume beginning in October 2023. If you miss the deadline, know that enrollment is always open and that you may qualify for retroactive coverage.
If you learn during the renewal process that you’re no longer eligible for Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare, you still have other options to get affordable coverage.
First, check with your employer to see if your job offers health insurance. Your employer is required to give you up to 60 days after your loss of Medicaid eligibility to enroll in your employer’s group plan.
Next, check your options through MNsure, our state’s marketplace where you can shop for coverage, compare your options, and apply for financial help to lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs.
You can also connect with a broker or navigator to get free application and enrollment help as you browse the marketplace. MNsure may invite you directly to check out plans if you’re eligible.
Learning from the COVID-19 response
We know some challenges will come up as folks renew their Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare coverage. This is a lot of complicated paperwork for our staff and partners to handle. The process depends on postal mail. It’s likely many people have moved, changed jobs, or experienced other life changes that will complicate an already complex process that hasn’t happened in a few years.
With all that in mind, we’re working hard to make sure things go as smoothly as possible. For example, we’re drawing on what we learned during the pandemic by doing what we can to meet communities where they’re at, getting information out early and often, and working with partners to think of different ways and places we can help people have what they need to re-enroll successfully.
In February, we pulled together over 200 community members and state agency, county and health plan staff to share information and ideas on how we can do better during this renewal process. We plan to build from that momentum.
Working together, we can come out of this with a system that works better for us and our community, one that keeps us connected to care and to health.
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