Millions of Americans poised to lose Medicaid coverage on April 1

Doctor holding clipboard.
Doctor holding clipboard. RunPhoto/Getty Images.

A rule instated during the COVID-19 pandemic that shielded people from losing their Medicaid coverage will expire Friday, NBC News reports, "putting millions of peoples' health insurance coverage at risk."

Previously, Medicaid recipients were required to renew their coverage yearly and would lose their coverage if they no longer qualified. But in 2020, lawmakers passed a rule "that kept people automatically enrolled in the government program, even if they no longer met the requirements for coverage." Up to 15 million people are at risk of losing their health coverage, per an estimate from the nonprofit research organization KFF. The number of people covered by Medicaid has surged by about one-third, "to 85 million as of late last year," since just before the pandemic, The Washington Post writes.

Beginning Saturday, April 1, states will be allowed to begin "unwinding" — "a process by which they will resume their annual Medicaid renewals and unenroll people who are no longer eligible for coverage," NBC News explains. While even the smallest gap in coverage can be "devastating," don't expect "a deluge of people" to lose their insurance immediately, Jennifer Tolbert, the associate director for the program on Medicaid and the uninsured at KFF, told NBC News. The unwinding period is expected to last about a year, as states reassess eligibility and send out renewal or termination notices, although some states will move faster, Tolbert said.

Still, health officials and advocates are "bracing for what they say looms as the nation's biggest health-insurance disruption since the Affordable Care Act came into existence more than a decade ago," the Post says. A recent Department of Health and Human Services analysis predicts that 15 million people will lose Medicaid, and "an estimated 6.8 million of those beneficiaries will be removed even though they still are eligible," the outlet summarizes.

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