After a pandemic reprieve, New Yorkers who rely on Medicaid, the Essential Plan or Child Health Plus government-subsidized health insurance plans have to again prove they qualify in order to keep coverage — but not everyone has reapplied.
The state Department of Health reported last month that 72% of the nearly 560,000 people who had a June 30 deadline had renewed their coverage.
That’s above the 62% national average, as shown on the Kaiser Family Foundation Medicaid tracker, but still leaves tens of thousands of people in New York potentially without health insurance. Those who missed the June deadline had until July 30 to sign up; the state has not yet divulged how many failed to reapply.
The sign-up rate so far is actually a sign of success, say advocates for low-income New Yorkers.
Medicaid saw a surge of enrollment nationally early in the pandemic as millions suddenly lost their jobs or had their incomes reduced.
“That’s when people did what they should do, which is: you’re in the middle of an epidemic, you don’t have job-based coverage because you’ve lost your job, you should turn to the safety net — that’s the Medicaid program,” said Elisabeth Benjamin, vice president of health initiatives for the Community Service Society, an anti-poverty organization.
Today, 8 million people in New York state are covered by Medicaid, according to the state Department of Health, nearly 4.5 million of them in New York City.
Benjamin says it’s also encouraging that when people are falling off the rolls, it’s often because they switched to their employers’ health insurance.
Kaiser’s tracker shows that of those who unenrolled in New York state so far, roughly 53%, or nearly 84,000, dropped off for procedural reasons such as failing to file for recertification — among the lowest rate of any state.
“We want people to lose coverage only because they’re ineligible, not for bureaucratic reasons, administrative reasons,” Benjamin said.
‘You Need Health Insurance’
The state Department of Health manages Medicaid enrollment, which has set income rules that limit eligibility to 138% of the federal poverty level, or $34,307 for a household of three, with higher thresholds for families with children or people who are pregnant.
The city’s Human Resources Administration handles Medicaid for those older than 65 and for those who qualify based on disability. HRA had successfully renewed over 97% of the 59,000 Medicaid users it’s responsible for as of the end of June.
The state launched a public education campaign about the need to reapply, and also encouraged enrollees to update their address and contact information with the state.
“Redeterminations for New Yorkers who are covered under Medicaid, Child Health Plus and the Essential Plan are underway, and it remains the Department’s mission to ensure continued access to public health insurance programs throughout the unwind process,” a spokesperson for the Department of Health said.
The office of state Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) has been doing its own outreach to supplement the state’s efforts, contacting constituents to remind them to recertify.
“I do believe government should try to make sure that we don’t have that big a fall-off continually and that we try to make sure we reach out to the people who did fall off and say, ‘Okay, now you have to reapply,” Krueger said. “That’s sort of a pain in the ass, but you need health insurance.”
Lila Benayoun, the COO of MetroPlusHealth, one of the largest Medicaid providers in New York City, said her company understood that the federal government’s move to resume yearly recertification of Medicaid would be a “monumental event.” She said her company had recertified about 76% of its members whose insurance was winding down.
Benayoun said that starting in February, her company hosted town halls to ensure medical providers were ready to inform and help their patients through the return of recertification.
“I think health should be a number one priority in your life, because you want to live your best life and making sure you’re able to sleep at night, maintaining coverage,” Benayoun said. “So that if something were to happen to you or anyone, your family members, you’re covered.”
How to Renew Your Insurance
If you are on Medicaid or one of the state’s public insurance plans, look out for an email, text or letter advising you it’s time to renew. When you receive notification will depend on when your insurance is ending, with deadlines stretching into May 2024.
If you are enrolled in Medicaid through the Human Resources Administration, you can check your renewal status by selecting “Case Details” at the ACCESS HRA site. You can update your contact information on ACCESS HRA or by contacting the Medicaid helpline at 1-888-692-6116.
City enrollees can submit their Medicaid renewal through ACCESS HRA or by mailing in their packets or turning them into a HRA Medicaid office.