The state’s Medicaid rolls soared as the annual requalifying requirements were suspended during three years of the pandemic emergency. Georgia, like other states, is now asking all beneficiaries to re-apply, and reviewing cases to weed out those who no longer qualify.
If the initial numbers released Friday are any guide to what lies ahead, the number disenrolled marks the first drop in a much larger well of people who are about to lose their Medicaid health insurance.
Most in the first batch to be disenrolled were taken off Medicaid because the state had received no response to its letters, emails and phone calls, as far as it could tell.
Medicaid officials are concerned that some recipients will have moved and not know they need to reapply. Activists are concerned the state could be losing paperwork that beneficiaries actually sent in, or failing to assist people who need help completing the paperwork.
A larger group of about 6,000 was automatically re-enrolled by computers that searched state and other databases to verify they still meet criteria to stay enrolled. Some who lose coverage will be referred to the Affordable Care Act marketplace to buy insurance.
The state appears to be running behind on the review work, which was due to be finished by June 1 for the first batch. More than a third of the first 12,000 cases have not been completed.
A spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services said 100 of the 550 new caseworker positions it’s trying to fill to do the Medicaid work remain open. She added that they welcome applicants.
The first batch of reviews was a baby step. From here on out, each monthly batch that will need to be re-qualified is expected to number more than 200,000 cases. Georgia is giving itself about a year to re-qualify all 2.8 million Medicaid recipients in the state.
Spokespeople for the state Department of Community Health, which together with DHS oversees Medicaid, did not respond immediately to questions about the first batch of data.
An advocate for Medicaid coverage of the poor, Laura Colbert, said she was not too concerned about DCH being behind in completing case files. As long as a case review hasn’t been completed, she reasoned, that person will just keep getting coverage, so it’s not an emergency.
What Colbert is concerned about is the unanswered questions in the numbers: What is going on with the thousands of cases that haven’t been reviewed and will large numbers of them also be disenrolled for not responding?
“I think that’s pretty important,” Colbert said.