Healthcare for millions of Latinos in danger as pandemic-era medicaid provisions expire in April
The forthcoming expiration threatens millions of low-income Americans from losing access to care as well as being exposed to large medical bills.
MORE IN THIS SECTION
In the beginnings of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of Congress’ responses to the virus was to pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) that included a requirement for Medicaid programs to keep people enrolled through the end of the month when the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) is over, in exchange for enhanced federal funding.
But as of now, states like Texas and Pennsylvania are getting ready to remove tens of millions of people from Medicaid as the pandemic protections begin to expire.
Set to begin this upcoming April and to take place over the course of more than a year, it will put millions of low-income Americans at risk of losing coverage, their access to care and exposing them to large medical bills.
Not only does it pressure the everyday person, but the finances of hospitals, doctors, and others relying on payments from Medicaid — a state-federal program that covers lower-income people and those with disabilities.
As consequences from the pandemic sent the economy into limbo, the federal government agreed to send billions of dollars in additional Medicaid funding on the condition that they stop unenrolling people.
The increased federal funding and the “continuous coverage” requirement was to last until the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra, declared the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) over.
The Latino community, particularly, faces some major challenges in the coming months.
A federal report from August 2022 from the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) — the principal advisor to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — found that over 4.6 million Latinos and 5.5 million children are likely to lose Medicaid if pre-pandemic policies and practices do not change.
These losses will be the largest in U.S. history.
Additionally, roughly two-thirds of the Latinos losing coverage and three-fourths of the children will remain eligible for the program, but will be terminated over red tape and missing paperwork, which is in stark comparison to non-Hispanic whites, where the percentage is just 17%.
These findings are comparable to those from a report that UnidosUS, Families USA, and First Focus on Children released last Summer that warned of a “Medicaid tsunami” that, when it hits this April, will cause harm to the Hispanic community and other historically marginalized groups.
The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) released 2021 Medicaid coverage rates for the nonelderly by race and ethnicity report and found that 31.3% of the Hispanic population in the U.S. are covered, or over 17 million people.
The Biden administration has estimated that over 15 million people — 17% of enrollees — will lose coverage through Medicaid or CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program, as the programs return to normal operations.
Many of the 15 million will be dropped over eligibility and nearly half will be dropped for procedural reasons, such as failing to respond to requests for updated personal information, a federal report said.
Out of 15 million beneficiaries whom APSE estimates will lose Medicaid, more than half are people of color.
Medicaid terminations will hurt over 5.3 million children, 4.6 million Latinos, 2.2 million African Americans, nearly a million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and almost 800,000 other people of color.
These huge losses will be the largest in history. It would exceed the largest one-year drop in Medicaid coverage reported in Census Bureau data from 1979. For instance, the 4.6 million Latinos who are expected to lose Medicaid will outnumber the 0.6 million Latinos who lost Medicaid in 2019, the largest previous one-year drop in Hispanic Medicaid enrollment.
To help prevent this loss, Federal and state lawmakers must act.
“We have no illusion that this will be beautiful or graceful, but we will be doing everything we can not to lose anyone in the process,” Dana Hittle, Oregon’s interim Medicaid director, said of the Medicaid unwinding.