Up to 375K Minnesotans may lose Medicaid coverage within year

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Thousands of Minnesotans who currently get health coverage through Medicaid may lose their coverage over the next year.

For more than four decades, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has served people with mental illnesses.

“A huge number of people with serious mental illness are on Medicaid,” Sue Abderholden, NAMI’s executive director, said, adding that Medicaid is one of the largest payers for mental health treatment.

Medicaid, a government-sponsored health program, currently covers around 1.5 million Minnesotans but the state says as many as 375,000 of them may lose their coverage within the next year.

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“Perhaps they have jobs and don’t need coverage or no longer meet eligibility,” said Cynthia MacDonald, the assistant commissioner for health care administration in the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS).

According to MacDonald, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, federal protections were created so that anyone on Medicaid no longer had to prove they were eligible for the program. That allowed those on Medicaid to have continuous coverage.

However, those protections are now being lifted and states are required to return to their pre-pandemic ways.

“Each case has to be reviewed and renewed,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald notes that 30-50% of those who lose coverage will be able to come back on the program right away. That’s because eligibility isn’t the issue for everyone and sometimes things like filling out the paperwork create barriers.

It also means a new hurdle for some who need coverage.

“It will be a huge challenge to people. If you think about some of the symptoms of mental illness, you know, difficulty concentrating, keeping organized, all of those kinds of things,” Abderholden said.

Those issues could once again mean delays in medical treatments, as those who don’t update their information will lose coverage.

For anyone who no longer qualifies for Medicaid, DHS notes their children likely do still qualify for the program through the children’s health insurance program. The department also has information on other options for anyone in need of new coverage online.