JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The top Democrat in the Missouri House wants to know why so many children are being dropped from state health insurance.
Rep. Crystal Quade, House minority floor leader, has asked House Speaker Elijah Haahr to charge a committee with seeking answers.
In a letter to Haahr, Quade requested the Special Committee on Government Oversight investigate the cause of the situation and help develop solutions. She noted there are a number of other committees — Children and Families, Health and Mental Health Policy, or a newly-created special interim committee — which could also look into the matter.
In June 2019, 11,500 individuals — including more than 9,000 children — had their state health care rescinded, according to the Missouri Department of Social Services (DSS) data. In total, roughly 120,000 people, of which 95,000 are children, have been removed from MO HealthNet rolls since January 2018.
“This decline is not slowing down: currently it is more than double the national average. We need answers, and we need action,” Quade said.
Quade alleged in her letter the decline is due to issues with the re-enrollment process and not a byproduct of an improving economy. She noted similar decreases are not seen in other state programs such as SNAP and TANF.
According to the letter, re-enrollment issues include: the MO HealthNet software not checking SNAP eligibility; renewal notificals not being timely distributed; and wait times for call centers.
Quade requested Haahr respond by Friday. The Republican lawmaker did not immediately return a request for comment from The Missouri Times.
This is not the first time Democrats have sought answers for the reduction in folks on the state health care plan.
In February, Sen. Scott Sifton wrote to Todd Richardson, director of the MO HealthNet Division, asking a series of questions regarding the “dramatic”‘ reduction of Missourians covered by Medicaid.
Richardson responded to Sifton’s letter the same month. He attributed the decline to several reasons: improved economy; a decrease in emphasis on the federal marketplace and repeal of the individual mandate; and new technology to better track and issue annual reviews.
When Sifton inquired into the enrollment drop in February, roughly 71,000 people had been removed from the rolls.
From January 2018 to January 2019, the state sent out 102,550 renewal letters. Missourians returned 37,778 paper renewals, and the Family Support Division averaged 3,225 telephone renewals each month, according to Richardson.
In total, 43,200 individuals failed to return requested information with 20,095 individuals being shown as “unable to locate” in the system, Richardson said.
Richardson’s letter notes that 82,425 people lost coverage due to excessive income — a number which includes those who lost coverage in one category but may move to another that requires a premium.
For comparison purposes, the response letter noted 296,253 individual cases were closed in 2018 while 280,966 individual cases were closed in 2013.
Alisha Shurr was a reporter for The Missouri Times and The Missouri Times Magazine. She joined The Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University.