More than 16,000 Mississippians were dropped from Medicaid in August during the latest round of the agency’s disenrollments.
The pandemic-era federal regulations that prevented state Medicaid agencies from disenrolling beneficiaries ended in May. Since then, Medicaid divisions all over the country are reviewing their rolls for the first time in three years.
In June, 29,460 Mississippians were dropped. Another 22,507 people were disenrolled in July.
August’s numbers bring the agency’s total number of disenrollments thus far to 68,626 people. Before unwinding began, the agency’s enrollment exceeded 900,000 people for the first time in the agency’s history.
Most concerningly, most of those who were disenrolled — 54,366 people or 79% — have not been kicked off because they’re ineligible. Instead, there were issues with their paperwork – it was either not turned in on time or was incomplete. That could mean some people have been kicked off Medicaid even though they’re still eligible.
It’s unknown how many of the procedural disenrollments have been children. Children are most at risk of losing benefits during the unwinding process, federal research predicts, and many of them may still be eligible. Kids in low-income families comprise more than half of Mississippi’s overall Medicaid beneficiaries.
“These are not good numbers,” said Joan Alker, executive director of Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families. “It’s very concerning to see … people, likely children and parents by and large, losing Medicaid for red tape or procedural reasons.”
According to KFF, 13 states have higher procedural disenrollment rates than Mississippi.
From June to July, 18,710 kids were unenrolled from Medicaid, when the first wave of disenrollments took place.
Mississippi Today has requested to interview an agency official about the unwinding data, but the requests were not granted.
New enrollment numbers show that from July to August, another 12,882 children were dropped, bringing the agency’s total of children dropped since unwinding began to 31,592.
Mississippi Medicaid’s monthly unwinding reports do not say what number of terminations were children, but Mississippi Medicaid spokesperson Matt Westerfield confirmed that most of these disenrollments are due to unwinding.
The agency’s ex-parte rate, or automatic renewal rate, remains low. Westerfield previously told Mississippi Today that the agency wants to increase those rates, but August numbers show that of the 70,069 people up for renewal, only 10,817 were renewed on an ex-parte basis.
That’s on par with the previous data release, which shows that of the 75,110 people up for renewal in July, 12,188 were renewed ex-parte.
The agency in August requested permission from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for “four additional flexibilities that would reduce procedural disenrollments while increasing ex-parte renewals.” According to Westerfield, some were approved, while discussions continue about the others.
The agency’s backlog of beneficiaries to review also keeps growing. In June, about 5,000 renewals were not reviewed. About 15,000 additional reviews went uncompleted in July and another 10,000 in August.
As unwinding continues for the next several months, the burden on the state’s already crumbling health care infrastructure grows. One report puts nearly a half of the state’s rural hospitals at risk of closure.
State Republican leaders have adamantly opposed expanding Medicaid to the working poor, which research shows would bring in billions, though presumptive incoming House Speaker Jason White recently indicated he would consider expansion. His predecessor Philip Gunn largely led the effort to oppose the policy change.
KFF says at least 6,438,000 people nationally have been disenrolled from Medicaid as of Sept. 13.