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Washington, Idaho review Medicaid rolls post-pandemic

Courtesy Washington Health Care Authority
Washington state officials are contacting people who qualified for subsidized health care during the COVID pandemic to see if they're still eligible for the Apple Health program.

When the federal COVID pandemic emergency ended, so did subsidized health insurance for tens of thousands of Washington and Idaho residents.

During the pandemic, states were not allowed to drop people from the Medicaid rolls, even if they didn’t meet the program’s income requirements. It was a way to ensure they would be able to access health insurance in case they needed it.

But Congress voted to end the coverage requirement on April 1. States are now scouring their Medicaid rosters to see who is still eligible and who is not.

Jason McGill, the assistant director of the Washington Health Care Authority, says about 500,000 thousand people signed up for subsidized care in the Evergreen State during the pandemic, pushing the state’s total to about 2.3 million. Not all of them are still eligible. McGill says state officials started their review with the people who were added during the federal emergency.

“That is a complex process. It involves resident address checks. It involves income checks,” he said.

He says some Apple Health recipients contacted by the state have responded. Others have not.

“These are folks who probably lost a job early in the pandemic and then may have found another job, but we did not disenroll them. Now we need to do that. So we’re focused on that,” he said. “For those who should be re-enrolled, there are many attempts and outreach activities and we have enrolled many of them.”

McGill says about 450,000 people were renewed during the first month of the agency’s review. About 116,000 were removed from the program. He says the federal government has given Washington a year to finish its work.

He says those who lose their Medicaid status can still buy health insurance through the state exchange if they’re not able to purchase private insurance.

Idaho aggressively scrubbed its Medicaid rolls during April through June. As of July 3, the state Department of Health and Welfare reported that it had re-evaluated the records for about 115,000 subscribers and found about 3/4 of them (87,500) were no longer eligible for benefits.

As in Washington, people losing those benefits can look to buy insurance through the state exchange. They may even qualify for a state tax benefit if they buy through there or through private insurance brokers. You can learn more about that at Your Health Idaho, the state’s online exchange.

Doug Nadvornick has spent most of his 30+-year radio career at Spokane Public Radio and filled a variety of positions. He is currently the program director and news director. Through the years, he has also been the local Morning Edition and All Things Considered host (not at the same time). He served as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network, based in Coeur d’Alene. He created the original program grid for KSFC. He has also served for several years as a board member for Public Media Journalists Association. During his years away from SPR, he worked at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Washington State University in Spokane and KXLY Radio.