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Many people that were on Medicaid are finding themselves uninsured


During the COVID pandemic, Medicaid was a lifeline for more than 90 million people. For three years, states could not kick anyone off the public health insurance program. But that's changing quickly now, and many are finding themselves uninsured. NPR's Selena Simmons-Duffin reports.

SELENA SIMMONS-DUFFIN, BYLINE: It's being called Medicaid unwinding. All 90 million beneficiaries will have their eligibility checked at some point over the next year. Ideally, those who are still eligible will keep their coverage, and those who don't qualify any more will get dropped. But in reality, it's going to be a lot messier than that. Take Florida, for example. Last month, Liz Adams, who lives in Plant City, was trying to figure out the time of her son's biopsy appointment. Her son survived leukemia and has a variety of ongoing health problems.

LIZ ADAMS: I called the surgery center, like, hey, what time is his appointment? Oh, well, we canceled that. He doesn't have insurance. So I jump on the portal, and sure enough, they don't have insurance.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: She was incredibly frustrated. She then had to try and enroll her two kids in health insurance while also trying to figure out how to get her son's care back on track.

ADAMS: I waited a year to get in with a rheumatologist. And we finally got the biopsy and then finally got bloodwork ordered. And I can't go do any of it 'cause they canceled my insurance.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: Adams' kids were among 250,000 people who lost Medicaid in Florida last month. Joan Alker is with the Georgetown Center for Children and Families.

JOAN ALKER: I am very worried about Florida. We've heard the call centers overwhelmed. The notices are very confusing in Florida. They're very hard to understand.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: Of those who lost Medicaid in Florida, 80% of them lost it for procedural reasons - like they didn't respond to the notice. And many of them are children because Florida didn't expand Medicaid to more low-income adults. But Alker says unwinding is not going badly in every state.

ALKER: We're really seeing divergence here. We've seen very, very concerning numbers from Florida, from Arkansas, from Indiana, but we've seen much more reassuring numbers from Arizona and Pennsylvania.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: Alker says in Pennsylvania, only 10% of people whose applications were looked at lost coverage in April. She says it's up to each state how they manage this daunting task. But the federal government also has the power to make a state pause disenrollments, for instance. Alker says it remains to be seen if federal health officials will use that power in places where people who shouldn't be losing Medicaid are getting kicked off anyway.

Selena Simmons-Duffin, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Selena Simmons-Duffin reports on health policy for NPR.

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