Medicaid drops another 13,000 Mississippians as agency’s backlog snowballs

Medicaid drops another 13,000 Mississippians as agency’s backlog snowballs

Nearly 13,000 Mississippians were kicked from Medicaid’s rolls in September during the most recent batch of disenrollments, while the agency’s backlog grows.

The latest numbers bring the state’s total disenrollments to 81,454 people, most of whom were dropped for paperwork issues, not because they were found to be ineligible.

Medicaid divisions all over the country are reviewing their rolls for the first time in three years after the end of federal regulations that prevented state Medicaid agencies from disenrolling beneficiaries during the pandemic. Prior to this process, referred to as “unwinding,” Mississippi Medicaid enrollment exceeded 900,000 people for the first time in the agency’s history.

June numbers showed that 29,460 Mississippians were dropped in the first wave of disenrollments. Another 22,507 people followed in July, and 16,659 people were disenrolled in August.

Many of them have been children, according to the agency’s monthly enrollment reports. Federal research predicts that kids are most at risk of losing benefits during unwinding, and it’s not clear how many are being dropped despite being eligible. Before the terminations began, children in low-income families made up more than half of the state’s Medicaid rolls.

Almost 45,000 kids in Mississippi have been dropped from Medicaid since the start of unwinding.

Though Medicaid’s spokesperson Matt Westerfield previously told Mississippi Today that the agency hopes to increase its ex-parte rate, or automatic renewal rate, the state continues to disproportionately drop beneficiaries for procedural reasons, which means their paperwork was either not turned in on time or it was incomplete.

Of the 12,828 people dropped in September, around 75% were procedural disenrollments. Overall, Mississippi reports a 78% procedural disenrollment rate thus far. According to KFF, 72% of all people disenrolled were terminated for procedural reasons across all states with available data.

And though it appears in recent data that Mississippi’s disenrollments are decreasing, that’s because the agency’s backlog is growing.

During the first round of disenrollments completed in June, Mississippi Medicaid didn’t get around to checking the eligibility of 5,892 people that were due for the review. However, that backlog has significantly increased — to 19,402 in July; 29,788 in August and now 45,989 in September.

Westerfield did not reply to questions by press time.

As Republican Gov. Tate Reeves continues to voice his opposition to Medicaid expansion, which would insure thousands more working Mississippians, unwinding is set to continue for months. Thousands more Mississippians are poised to lose Medicaid coverage amid a statewide health care crisis — nearly half of the state’s rural hospitals are at risk of closure, according to one report.

KFF says at least 8,696,000 people nationally have been dropped from Medicaid as of Oct. 11.

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