Almost 2 million Louisianans—more than 40% of the state’s population—will have their Medicaid eligibility reviewed in the coming months, when the federally declared Public Health Emergency (PHE) is expected to officially end. Many of them will be at risk of losing their health coverage, even though they might still be eligible because of their income or health status. When the PHE ends, Louisiana should use every tool available to protect coverage for eligible people. 

Louisiana’s Medicaid enrollment has grown by over 330,000 since the start of the pandemic, when Congress offered states an attractive deal: The federal government would agree to pick up a higher percentage of state Medicaid costs, but in return for the extra money states would be barred from taking anyone off the rolls for the duration of the Public Health Emergency.  

As the pandemic shows encouraging signs of ending, the federal agency that oversees Medicaid recently sent a checklist (accessible here) to states of things they can do to ensure that people don’t lose health coverage because of paperwork problems. It is vitally important that Louisiana use this guide to keep eligible people covered when the PHE ends.

The process of reviewing eligibility for the entire Medicaid population will be a massive undertaking for state agencies, patient navigators, insurers, and advocates working to keep people covered. The guidance from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) encourages states to promote continuity of coverage, and the agency has pledged to work with states to make sure they have procedures in place to guard against wrongful terminations.

While we don’t know for sure when the eligibility reviews will start, the state should take steps now to ensure that the state avoids inappropriate terminations and coverage losses. The federal government’s new State Renewal Report template (accessible here) can guide Louisiana in this work, and serve as a tool for other stakeholders to use to make sure that our state does all it can to keep eligible people on the Medicaid rolls or transition them to affordable Marketplace plans if their income is too high to stay on Medicaid.

The checklist includes common-sense steps Louisiana can take to make sure it has up-to-date information about everyone who’s enrolled in coverage – and makes every effort to let them know about possible changes to their eligibility.

Louisiana already takes up some of these options such as sending enrollees pre-populated renewal forms and ensuring that kids keep their Medicaid eligibility for a full 12 months even if their family’s economic situation changes. Additionally, the state recently announced that it will be calling members to remind them to update their contact information. The more of these tactics that Louisiana adopts in the weeks ahead, the less likely it will be that people will lose coverage because they missed a piece of mail. Louisiana should take an “all of the above” approach to ensuring that eligible Louisianans stay covered as we transition back to pre-pandemic Medicaid operations.

– by Courtney Foster