EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been changed to clarify that Lynette Rhodes was speaking to a DCH board committee, not the full DCH board. The full DCH board meeting ended early due to technology issues.
Georgia has sent its first batch of warning notices to people on Medicaid who might get kicked off following the end of pandemic protections.
Those are people the state says it asked for proof that they’re still eligible, but who still haven’t responded, as far as the state can tell. Georgia began sending notices Friday.
For three years, states across the country have enrolled new people as usual, but have not kicked people off when they no longer qualify. Georgia’s Medicaid rolls have now swelled to 2.8 million people. But with the end of the federal pandemic emergency, all states are beginning the process of reevaluating every case to see if the person still qualifies.
Experts expect several hundred thousand people in Georgia to lose Medicaid coverage. Experts nationwide have predicted that large numbers of those will be people who still qualify, but who get kicked off because of bureaucracy or a mistake.
That means people on Medicaid ― mostly poor children but also some new moms, elderly people and adults federally designated as disabled — must re-submit their paperwork to prove their eligibility.
Georgia has a year to do the work of reevaluation, technically called “redetermination.” It is starting small, with a batch of just 12,000 enrollees. Officials say next month it will start reviewing much bigger batches of 200,000.
Of this month’s 12,000 enrollees, the state was able to automatically re-qualify about 5,000 by checking other computer systems for financial documents. But 7,000 were asked to send in their paperwork to demonstrate that they still meet the Medicaid standards for income, age, and other factors.
Some didn’t do that, according to state officials. So Friday, the state Department of Community Health, which oversees Medicaid, they planned to send out their first batch of warning notices, cautioning Medicaid patients that they could lose their coverage if they don’t take action.
The notices will be sent by the communication methods the members previously requested: mail, email or both.
DCH could not say Friday how many warning notices were being sent. The state Department of Family and Children Services, under the state Department of Human Services, does the work under contract to DCH. They expect to know Monday the number of enrollees notified.
The state knows some people won’t respond. They also know some people won’t respond because they didn’t get the notices at all. Some of those notices will inevitably get returned to the state by the postal services as undeliverable.
“We know that that’s going to happen,” said Lynette Rhodes, the Department of Community Health’s executive director for medical assistance plans, speaking to a DCH board committee this week. “It is going to happen nationwide.... The member may have moved and did not update their contact information”
When people move, if they notify their doctor of their new address, that’s not enough, as the doctor may not automatically tell Medicaid.
Rhodes said the state is planning for returned mail, putting a QR code on the envelopes that can be scanned when the mail is returned to the state warehouse in order to automatically update their file. Then, Rhodes said, the state will attempt to contact the person by other methods than mail including direct phone calls.
The state is using automation for a number of tasks in the process, she said. One of them is to have “bots” do some of the data entry for applicants who fill out their forms on paper.
The state Department of Human Services says that in April it also automatically re-verified 66,000 Georgians for Medicaid, because they were being vetted for other programs such as food stamps, or SNAP.
GEORGIA’S PANDEMIC MEDICAID EXPLOSION
The number of Georgians on Medicaid increased steadily throughout the pandemic.
March 2020: 2,115,439
March 2021: 2,334,119
March 2023: 2,804,552
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