1.1 million people — and counting — have had Medicaid coverage revoked this year
DON GONYEA, HOST:
We are in the middle of something called the Medicaid unwinding. The government health insurance program for people with low incomes and those with disabilities grew to over 95 million people during the pandemic. There were special COVID protections - the federal government mandated states could not drop anyone from coverage and people did not have to reapply to stay on the program. Now those protections have ended, and states are starting to drop people - a lot of people, nowhere more so than Florida. Joining us now is Veronica Zaragovia, health reporter at member station WLRN in Miami. Welcome, Veronica.
VERONICA ZARAGOVIA, BYLINE: Thank you so much, Don.
GONYEA: How is this Medicaid unwinding proceeding in Florida and across the U.S.?
ZARAGOVIA: Well, nationwide, 1.1 million people have been dropped, and health care analysts say that's an alarmingly fast rate. It's going quicker than they expected. Now, in Florida, 250,000 people have been dropped because of paperwork problems, which is a common problem across the country. People didn't confirm proof of income or household size and then they were dropped, even though the majority are actually still eligible.
GONYEA: How are people finding out they're not enrolled anymore if the state says they couldn't get in touch by phone or by mail in the first place?
ZARAGOVIA: A lot of them have said that they'll either go to a pharmacy or they'll deal with a hospitalization or go to the doctor and then - or even a specialist, for instance, and then find out that they owe the full rate instead of what the insurance would have covered. And so that's when they find out because maybe they've moved during the pandemic or they've changed their provider and have a new phone number. So they didn't know that they needed to send in any kind of paperwork to still qualify for their Medicaid.
GONYEA: Have you spoken to anyone in that position?
ZARAGOVIA: Yes, I have. I've spoken to parents - for instance, one mother whose daughter requires around-the-clock nursing care, and she's lost her nurse now because of this. Or another mother who only could go by her first name - she was worried about the impact to her job. Her name is Melissa (ph), and she has two minor children. One has a heart condition that has led him to get hospitalized for a few days at a time, and he takes expensive heart medication. And a daughter who's diabetic, and she's insulin resistant, so she takes very expensive medication. And she's very stressed out about this.
MELISSA: We need help. We can't get over this hump to keep moving forward. And that's all we're trying to do, is survive. And then you take away the one thing that they need - health care. How are we going to be healthy enough to continue working?
GONYEA: So what is the federal government doing, and what can people like Melissa do to get back on the program?
ZARAGOVIA: The federal government sent a letter to governors asking for states to take a month and pause this unwinding, help people get back on. But people in states like Florida do need to appeal having been dropped. And they have 90 days in Florida to do that. And that way they'll get their expenses covered that they've incurred during this time of not having Medicaid.
GONYEA: Veronica Zaragovia of WLRN in Miami, thank you so much.
ZARAGOVIA: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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