A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentuckians continue losing Medicaid coverage for unexplained reasons; bureaucratic hurdles an issue

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

Some Kentuckians are losing Medicaid coverage, and don’t know why.

According to the health care consumers group Families USA, the percentage of Medicaid enrollees in Kentucky dropped by 4 percent between 2017 and 2018, mirroring a national trend.

Authors of a report by the group say that annual, or even monthly, eligibility re-determination processes, which can be confusing and involve piles of paperwork, are driving the decline in enrollment.

Clare White lives in Scott County and has worked as a nanny. During a job switch, she discovered she had lost her coverage.

Bureaucratic hurdles caused more than 1 million people across the United States to lose Medicaid coverage in 2018, according to a Families USA report. (Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock)

“I went to the pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions and they said, ‘That’s not covered,’ and I called my insurance provider, and I was no longer a member of WellCare,” she said. “And I started getting bills for the care I’d had.”

White says that after losing coverage, she pinched for pennies to cover prescriptions, primary care and therapist visits.

Experts say federal regulations put into place under the Affordable Care Act were designed to simplify the process for verifying income and state residence, yet some states aren’t complying with the new rules.

White says the sudden loss of coverage has had lasting effects on her quality of life.

“It just turned my life upside down, when I lost that coverage, and I’m still dealing with the repercussions of that,” she said.

Many low-income Kentuckians struggle to navigate the renewal process.

Indalecio Garza lives in Laurel County. When he had a stroke, he was unaware he had lost his Medicaid benefits the month before.

“After that, it was chaos, bills coming in from everywhere, $29,000 from one place, $59,000 from the other,” he said. “It was so much money that I was about to have another stroke. The attorney that assisted me said they should have never closed it like that.”

More than 1.2 million Kentuckians are enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.

Medicaid expansion and work requirements are expected to be major debate topics in this year’s gubernatorial race.

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