Medicaid
3:38 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

Glitches Put Tens of Thousands In Danger Of Losing Medicaid

Glitches that kept tens of thousands of Medicaid recipients from re-enrolling this fall continued to trip people up in December, though the state agency that runs Medicaid said the problems are being fixed.

Low-income people who get free health coverage through Medicaid have to re-up every year. And since November, they’ve had to do so on the state’s health exchange website, WAHealthPlanFinder.org

Some 52,000 beneficiaries expected to renew that month, but only half did so, with the rest effectively dropping off the rolls, said Washington Medicaid Director MaryAnne Lindeblad.

Persistent website outages, slowdowns and errors hampered people in November. Exchange officials also blame a rigid system that can’t accommodate even minor discrepancies, such as a nickname entered instead of a full name. But Lindeblad said technical fixes and outreach efforts are getting things back on track.  

“Numbers are coming in better. We’re starting to see responses from some of the letters that have gone out. So we do think that the efforts that we’ve made have dropped it. I mean it cut the [outstanding] November renewals about in half,” she said.

Problems In December, Too

Still, as of last Friday, despite some repairs and improved performance, another 28,000 people due to re-enroll in December had failed to do so. That means December left behind about the same number of people as the month before.

Medicaid recipients are a vulnerable population, and research shows interruptions in access to Medicaid leads to more hospitalizations and other health problems.

The state Health Care Authority has extended coverage an extra month for those who were due to re-up in December. Lindeblad said the agency has also reassured doctors and other providers who care for lapsed Medicaid recipients that they’ll still be reimbursed.

And since Medicaid has no defined enrollment period, even those dropped from the program can come back in at any time.