States will need to review the eligibility of millions of people enrolled in Medicaid once the COVID-19 public health emergency expires.
Staffing shortages at state Medicaid agencies add extra complications to that task and could cause mass-scale disruption in people's coverage, even for those who still qualify, Kaiser Health News reported March 4.
In Missouri, for example, 20 percent of its employees who handled Medicaid claims left their jobs in the last fiscal year, Kaiser Health News reported. Job applications in the department that oversees Medicaid enrollment dropped from 47 in March 2021 to 10 in February 2022.
Missouri had nearly 72,000 pending Medicaid applications at the end of February, according to the article. The average processing time was 119 days, more than twice the 45-day maximum turnaround required by federal rules.
Medicaid renewals are not as labor-intensive as initial applications, but it takes time before an eligibility worker knows the ins and outs of the program, Jennifer Wagner, director of Medicaid eligibility and enrollment for the think tank Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told Kaiser Health News.
Federal officials have said they will give states 60 days notice before ending the public health emergency, and states will then have up to 14 months to complete renewals. Budget pressures may push many to move faster because a bump in Medicaid funds to states will end shortly after the emergency's expiration, according to the article.