Looming end of pandemic funds to oust waves of Georgians from Medicaid

Credit: ariel hart

Credit: ariel hart

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been changed to clarify that after April 1, 2023, extra federal funding for Medicaid will phase out rather than stop.

Hundreds of thousands of Georgians could lose Medicaid coverage later this year, as special emergency funding for extended health coverage during the pandemic begins to expire.

Kemp administration health officials last week testified to state lawmakers that they are preparing for an ordeal.

Since the pandemic began, Medicaid enrollees across the U.S. have been protected from having to reapply each year as they used to, thanks to extra federal funding. In almost three years, Georgia’s Medicaid rolls swelled by more than 500,000, to 2.7 million.

That is about to change.

After April 1, Congress will phase out funding the extra Medicaid coverage. Georgia and other states will examine all the people on their rolls to ensure they still qualify for the federal health insurance program meant to serve low-income people.

Georgia caseworkers at the state Department of Human Services will have until June 2024 to re-examine all 2.7 million and drop those who no longer qualify.

“This is going to be a huge undertaking,” said Caylee Noggle, commissioner of the state Department of Community Health, which oversees Medicaid.

The people who normally would have lost coverage because they no longer qualified — if they were no longer a brand-new mother, for example, or their earnings went over the limit— those people once again will get knocked off the rolls unless they qualify for another reason.

Noggle and DHS Commissioner Candice Broce, who oversees the Medicaid caseworkers, said they hope many of those disenrolled will instead be eligible for private insurance through the Affordable Care Act. But they don’t know yet.

Noggle said Medicaid rolls grew by 25% while reapplications were suspended. Until the pandemic hit they had expected enrollment to grow just 5%.

Medicaid in Georgia mostly insures children in poor families, and some older and disabled adults. New moms with low incomes can also get insurance, for one year.

Figuring out who no longer qualifies and who still does will cost money, the administration officials presenting Tuesday said. The state is asking for $5.7 million for a management consultant to guide the process. It’s asking for another $3 million to help fund 300 new caseworkers. DHS will also make fixes to its computer system for determining eligibility.