AUGUSTA, Maine — April will ring in a year-long shift in public health insurance that requires hundreds of thousands of Mainers to pay close attention.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services rolled out a “Stay Connected to Stay Covered” public-relations campaign on Tuesday aiming for seamless coverage for those who will be removed from Medicaid. It comes due to federal policy changes returning the program to normal after pandemic-related changes kept those on the rolls who would normally leave.
Most of those leaving the program will be eligible for other forms of private or public coverage, but it will come with some churn between programs. Here is what you need to know.
Many will leave Medicaid, but few need to go it alone for coverage.
Two things drove the Medicaid rolls to skyrocket early in the pandemic. The first was Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act in 2019 under Gov. Janet Mills. When the pandemic came in early 2020, Congress allowed most in Medicaid to keep their coverage, even if their income improved to the degree that they would leave the program under regular rules.
Enrollment in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program rose by nearly 35 percent between February 2020 and October 2022, according to data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation. It was the 14th-largest increase in the country over that period.
The federal government is now ending a public health emergency, triggering a yearlong window in which states are charged with bringing Medicaid back in line with the normal rules. Maine has said it will take effectively the full year to review recipients and see if they are still eligible.
Estimates differ on the number of Mainers who will leave the program, but the state cited a third-party estimate on Tuesday saying between 65,000 to 90,000 people could drop off the rolls. But 90 percent are likely eligible for other types of coverage. For many, that would come under Affordable Care Act plans and associated subsidies or through employers.
The state is doing two main things to link people with plans.
There are two main pieces of the state’s review process that matter to Mainers.
The first part is the renewal reviews. For recipients who are not signed up for electronic notices, the state will begin sending envelopes with blue blocks on them that contain a renewal form.
If you renewed your Medicaid plan in July 2021, your form is due on July 31. If the form is not returned, coverage will end on Aug. 30. The department is promising mail, email and text reminders to recipients and a public-relations effort with other groups to get the word out.
The second part of the plan revolves around those deemed ineligible due to income or other reasons. If that happens, the department says it will transfer account information to CoverME.gov, the state’s Affordable Care Act marketplace, and provide notifications. Those people will have a special window to find plans if they qualify.
Here’s what you can do now to make the process easier.
The state recommends visiting My Maine Connection to create an account and sign up for electronic updates on when to renew. Medicaid recipients can also update contact information by calling 1-855-797-4357 and selecting 1.
Those people can renew online, which is likely to be quicker and easier than by mail. If you have questions, consult this state guide on the changes.