NASHVILLE, Tenn — Nearly 300,000 Tennesseans who enrolled in Medicaid during the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to lose their coverage this year now that state officials are once again allowed to bump people from the government-funded health insurance program.
A spokesperson for TennCare, the state's Medicaid program, said this week that no removals will occur until April 1, though she said in an email that the "redetermination process" will begin in March.
"Once we complete the federally and state required redetermination process, we expect to return to normal enrollment which was 1.4 million members and trending downward," Amy Lawrence said via email. "Currently we serve above 1.7 million members."
Across the U.S., state officials are preparing to comb through their Medicaid rolls after Congress agreed late last year to sunset a COVID-19 public health emergency requirement that prohibited states from booting people off Medicaid.
As a result, millions are expected to be removed from the program. Under the proposal, the federal government will also wind down extra funds given to states for the added enrollees over the next year.
Some health care experts have raised concerns about how Medicaid recipients will be alerted that they are being removed from the program.
In Tennessee, officials say they will use email, text, phone calls and other methods to alert Medicaid recipients of their enrollment status. However, for those without a stable home address or access to internet or phone services, there's a risk some could be caught off guard.
According to TennCare, officials will send out renewal packets April 6 to people who couldn't automatically renew. Those members will have 40 days to respond. Meanwhile, anyone deemed ineligible will receive a 20-day termination notice.
"We haven't done this in three years, and so that creates some complexities," TennCare Director Stephen Smith told a legislative panel Tuesday. "What I can say with every confidence is that Tennessee is well positioned to go through this process."
Smith said Medicaid recipients have a "responsibility" to ensure their contact information is up to date but also noted that TennCare has an obligation to maintain an efficient renewal process that's easy to navigate.
"It's never been easier to renew TennCare coverage if renewal is desired," Smith said.
For those removed from Medicaid, TennCare will send their information to "Medicaid health plans that have a private plan in order for them to reach out to the member," Lawrence said.
Others might be eligible for health insurance coverage through employers or, in the case of kids, the Children's Health Insurance Program.
Since 2019, TennCare has added millions of dollars in new coverages, from extending post-partum coverage from 60 days to a year, to a new adult dental coverage.