More than 1.6 million Wisconsinites will soon need to apply to renew their Medicaid enrollment or risk losing health coverage.
In exchange for extra funding to state health departments during the COVID-19 public health emergency, Congress passed a law in March 2020 that prevented states from kicking people out of Medicaid programs. That meant many of those already enrolled as of mid-March 2020 could stay enrolled without needing to renew.
But that is set to change after federal lawmakers voted in December of last year to phase out the continuous coverage requirement. Now, state health officials are warning the more than 1.6 million Wisconsin residents enrolled in BadgerCare Plus and other Medicaid programs to be on the lookout for renewal deadlines that will come up between June 2023 and May 2024.
They're also urging Wisconsinites to update their contact information in their online Access portals, so the health department can send them a packet, which will let them know when they have 45 days to renew. Members should not attempt to renew coverage until they receive that packet, since renewing too early could result in premature termination of existing coverage, state officials say.
"Update your contact information if you need to, watch and read your mail, and act during your 45-day renewal period," said state Medicaid Director Jamie Kuhn during a news conference Thursday.
Sign up for daily news!
Stay informed with WPR's email newsletter.
Wisconsin's health department doesn't have a projection of how many residents will lose coverage as a result of the changes, Kuhn said.
But national figures released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in August predicted more than 8 million Americans would lose Medicaid coverage as a result of the shift because they've become ineligible since 2020. Nearly 7 million more could lose coverage even though they're eligible because they've failed to renew, the report estimates.
Kuhn says Wisconsin is trying to prevent that drop-off from happening by spreading the word about renewals.
"Our number one goal is to ensure Wisconsinites who are eligible for Medicaid coverage and services are able to continue in their current programs, and those who need to transition to other options are able to do so smoothly," she said.
Currently, more than one in four Wisconsin residents has Medicaid or Badger Plus insurance, according to figures provide by the state health department. People served by those programs include those who are low-income, pregnant, elderly or disabled.