State warns Coloradans on Medicaid to re-up their coverage as COVID emergency declarations wind down

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A negative pressure room inside St. Joseph Hospital, March 10, 2020.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
A negative pressure room inside St. Joseph Hospital, March 10, 2020.

As the COVID-19 federal emergency declarations come to an end next week, Colorado officials are warning those with Medicaid coverage who've received renewal packets in the mail to submit them as soon as possible.

During the pandemic, Congress allowed people to keep their Medicaid coverage without having to renew their eligibility, but the state is trying to get the word out that the requirements have now changed.

Shera Matthews is with Doctors Care in Littleton, a health clinic for low-income patients. She says a lot of people in Colorado applied for Medicaid during the pandemic because their financial circumstances changed suddenly for the worse.

"People initially went on because the economy went south and there was a lot of people getting laid off, especially in the service industry when their businesses went down. These are people that had needs during the pandemic and applied and were accepted," Matthews said.

"People have been on there for what, almost three years and haven't had to renew, haven't had to verify income, anything. So it, it's a new dawn with this for sure."

The renewal packets will arrive in waves depending on when an individual or family first signed up for Medicaid. The first ones are due Friday, May 5, 2023, and coverage will expire at the end of the month.

Matthews says there are definitely people who were eligible for Medicaid at one point, who no longer qualify and should no longer get the benefit.

"Let's pretend that I got a job for $150,000 a year during the pandemic and was on Medicaid. I still stayed on Medicaid by federal law. I never came off. So a lot of people don't possibly need Medicaid anymore and have jobs or moved out of state," Matthews said.

One concern is that some of the people who are on Medicaid and need to renew are dealing with housing instability, so the packet may not arrive in the right mailbox. Or, if someone does receive it, they may not realize it is something they need to deal with and it may be sitting on a shelf somewhere.

"Unfortunately, I think a good chunk might be members that did not respond to the packets, and those are the ones that we're highly sensitive to and trying to really encourage members to send their packets in and not be discontinued just because they didn't provide a response back," said Marivel Kluekman, with the state office of Health Care Policy and Financing.

Kluekman says the state has been reaching out and sending text messages urging people to return their packets. They state has also been working with counties and providers like Doctors Care to spread the word.

"So I worry about our complex chronically ill patients and I don't want them to lose a single day, but I also worry about, perhaps the mother with children that's been on in the system with Medicaid for years," said Matthews.

The state says if people go to the doctor or a hospital and find their coverage has lapsed, they'll still be able to sign up and their coverage can be retroactive.

Here's more information on renewals.