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Medicaid coverage could end soon for vulnerable Floridians, but state doesn’t want to ‘incite panic’

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Medicaid coverage could end soon for vulnerable Floridians, but state doesn’t want to ‘incite panic’

Jan 23, 2023 | 6:56 pm ET
By Issac Morgan
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Medicaid coverage could end soon for vulnerable Floridians, but state doesn’t want to ‘incite panic’
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Activists demonstrate in a Florida state House office in Miami, in support of expansion of health care coverage. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

With Florida preparing to take another look at eligibility for Medicaid recipients amid the COVID-19 pandemic, state agency leaders on Monday pointed to an expected decrease in enrollment in the health care program for many low-income families and children.

That’s because what’s called the “continuous Medicaid coverage” requirement is scheduled to end on March 31. On April 1, states like Florida are permitted to remove Medicaid recipients.

“Setting that tone naturally, I think we can expect to see some of that happen here,” Casey Penn, assistant secretary of economic self sufficiency of the Florida Department of Children and Families, said during the Senate’s Health Policy committee meeting. That means he is acknowledging that some residents will be kicked off.

State lawmakers heard a presentation about the state’s plan for Medicaid, which is called an “unwinding period” according to Monday’s Health Policy committee meeting in the Senate. (Lawmakers are in Tallahassee for various committee meetings leading up to the March 7 regular legislative session.)

Medicaid coverage could end soon for vulnerable Floridians, but state doesn’t want to ‘incite panic’
Casey Penn, assistant secretary for economic self sufficiency, spoke to Florida Senate members of the Health Policy committee about Medicaid on Jan. 23, 2023. Credit: Screenshot/Florida Channel

“We want to make sure we don’t incite panic out there,” Penn said. “There is a process that we are going to go to redetermine these individuals.”

The state has seen a dramatic increase in residents enrolled in Medicaid since 2020, which was “almost a 50 percent increase” said Tom Wallace, deputy secretary at the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. Increases in enrollment were mostly among children, parents, caretakers and pregnant women, Wallace added.

Overall, since March of 2020, Medicaid enrollment “has increased by over 1.8 million recipients” to nearly 5.58 million people enrolled in Florida’s Medicaid program, as of November 2022, according to a joint presentation by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Children and Families. The two agencies, DCF, and AHCA, work together on the Medicaid front.

Meanwhile, health care advocates have warned that millions of Medicaid recipients could lose health care coverage as the state will be permitted to kick those off who are no longer eligible. Miriam Harmatz, advocacy director and founder of the Florida Health Justice Project, previously told the Florida Phoenix that over a million people will lose coverage because they will no longer be eligible.

Penn said: “But we have a plan because we know that some individuals may not have gone through this process before. Even though we are going back to normal operations that we did before prior to the public health emergency (related to COVID), we may have individuals who are on Medicaid now…that haven’t gone through a redetermination process before.”

The state has prepared a communication strategy for notifying Medicaid enrollees about the redetermination process, Penn said. It will focus on sending alerts through social media, text messages and emails.

Penn added that people deemed ineligible for Medicaid will be provided alternative options for health care coverage, including the Florida Healthy Kids program and other health care providers.

“We are going to focus heavy on outreach,” Penn said. “We definitely encourage everyone to sign up for email alerts.”