Maine DHHS estimates between 65,000 and 95,000 Mainers may lose eligibility for Medicaid when the rule expires.
In this Feb. 3, 2021, file photo, Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew speaks at the opening of a makeshift COVID-19 mass vaccination clinic at a former horse racing track in Scarborough. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

At the end of this month, a federal requirement that prevented people enrolled in Medicaid during the pandemic from losing coverage will expire. That means states will need to determine who is no longer eligible, and Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services is estimating that figure to be between 65,000 and 90,000 recipients. The process will take at least a year, and the Department says it is launching a campaign to try to ensure people maintain health coverage even if they lose their Medicaid benefits.

The process of determining who is — and is not — eligible for MaineCare, the state version of Medicaid, is called “unwinding,” and it begins in April. Each month, DHHS will text, email and send letters to people currently enrolled to notify them it’s time to renew their application. The envelopes will be imprinted with a blue rectangle block.

“And the message will be, if it’s blue, it’s time to renew,” says DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew.

Lambrew says when all is said and done, up to 90,000 individuals could lose MaineCare coverage. But she says 90 percent of those will likely be able to purchase it elsewhere.

“We are trying not to create fear and concern among Maine people. We’re trying to create a sense of importance and why this matters,” she says.

Many people will be able to get coverage through their employers, she says, or through Maine’s health insurance marketplace, Lambrew says the department will automatically forward applications from those who are no longer eligible for MaineCare to the insurance marketplace, where staff will reach out directly.

Ann Woloson of Consumers for Affordable Health Care says many will likely qualify for subsidies.

“As an example, a family of three earning $42,000 annually can find a plan for the parents for as little as $45 a month,” she says.

Woloson says she is worried that some people may unnecessarily lose coverage, especially those with language barriers or who don’t have easy access to computers. She’s urging current MaineCare recipients not to ignore the renewal notices, and to call Consumers for Affordable Health Care’s helpline with any questions.

Maine saw a 40 percent increase in MaineCare enrollment during the pandemic, which is partly due to Medicaid expansion as well as the pandemic continuous coverage requirement. There are currently about 420,000 enrollees.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.