COVID source callout: Medicaid unwinding

The Biden administration has recently boasted that the number of Americans without health insurance hit a “record low” earlier this year. But that statement rings hollow when you consider how millions of people will lose their insurance in the coming months, thanks to the end of the federal COVID-19 emergency.

Early in the pandemic, the federal government gave states more funding for Medicaid programs, under the condition that they kept people enrolled in insurance rather than reevaluating their eligibility every year. This change led more people to be covered under Medicaid than ever before: about 94 million in total.

Now, however, the COVID-19 emergency has ended and states are able to reevaluate who qualifies for Medicaid, in a process called “Medicaid unwinding.” Every state has a different evaluation process, many of them involving a lot of bureaucratic hassle (waiting for paperwork in the mail, finding the right forms to fill out online, enrolling in different health insurance if you no longer qualify for Medicaid, etc.).

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released new data this week about people losing access to Medicaid. About 700,000 people lost their health insurance in April 2023 alone, CMS reports. That accounts for just 18 states that had started their reevaluation process in April; experts estimate that millions more will lose coverage in the coming months.

Losing health insurance during the ongoing pandemic means losing access to COVID-19 tests, vaccines, treatments, and care for Long COVID, not to mention all the routine health services that people need. Doesn’t really seem like something the Biden administration should be bragging about.

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