JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Less than one month after asking for a briefing on the number of children dropped from state health insurance, the top Republican in the Missouri House got his answers. The decline in enrollment, House Speaker Elijah Haahr relayed, is in part because eligibility was not previously “robustly verify.”
On Monday morning, Todd Richardson, the director MO HealthNet; and Rep. David Wood, chairman of the Subcommittee on Appropriations – Health, Mental Health, and Social Services, briefed Haahr on the issue.
“I have asked Director Richardson to do what he can or let me know how the General Assembly can expedite the transition to provide Missourians with tools that will make sure our children are not stuck on bureaucratic hold to receive basic medical care,” Haahr said in a statement.
At issue is the considerable reduction in enrollment in MO HealthNet during the last 18 months.
In July, 7,800 individuals — including more than 6,000 children — had their state health care rescinded, according to the Missouri Department of Social Services (DSS) data. In total, roughly 128,000 people, of which 101,000 are children, have been removed from MO HealthNet rolls since January 2018.
Democrats have publicly been seeking answers to the roll reduction for several months.
In February, Sen. Scott Sifton wrote to Richardson, asking a series of questions regarding the “dramatic”‘ reduction of Missourians covered by Medicaid.
House Minority Leader Crystal Quade asked Haahr in June to charge a committee with seeking answers. She reiterated her request hours after Haahr released his statement Monday.
“Although some policy makers find it politically expedient to deny a problem exists, the pleas for help from the thousands of Missourians – primarily children – who suddenly and without explanation had their health care coverage revoked proves the problem is real,” Quade said in a statement. “It remains imperative for the Speaker to empower a legislative committee to publicly investigate what caused this problem and bring the frontline folks who daily witness its reality to the table to help explore solutions.”
Per the briefing Haahr received, “the decrease in caseloads” was “anticipated” because of changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), an improved economy, and new technology to better track and issue annual reviews, he said.
It was also noted “from 2014 to 2018, a previous administration did not robustly verify eligibility requirements of individuals on an annual basis and therefore automatically renewed a significant number of enrollees, many of whom did not qualify for assistance.”
The MO HealthNet decline is consistent with other state assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), according to the briefing Haahr received.
“I also appreciate the department’s candor in their need to improve call center performance,” said Haahr.
Democrats have blasted the enrollment decline, alleging the decline is due to the MO HealthNet software not checking SNAP eligibility, renewal notifications not being properly distributed, and wait times for call centers.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn contributed to this report.
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.