By Alisha Wilson
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the government declared a public health emergency and provided assistance ranging from utilities to health insurance expansion. Consequently, we saw the uninsured rate drop to about 8 percent. Unfortunately starting April states will resume normal eligibility processes, as laid out in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, by reassessing accounts. There will be severe consequences as the federal Department of Health and Human Services estimates 6.8 million people losing their coverage.
The medicaid expansion has been a major win in the conversation surrounding free healthcare for all as it ensured that children, and other disadvantaged communities had access to, at least, affordable healthcare, “a fundamental right of every human being,” as described in the World Health Organization Constitution. Yet, as it was written into existence the expansion plan was never intended to be an indefinite one. As Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) approach their expiration dates, it is important to note who may be at risk. Historically, marginalized communities including children, older individuals, people with disabilities, non-English speakers, and low income communities have all tended to fall through the cracks. People who fall into these categories will most likely be affected the most, come April. Moreover, COVID-19 still poses a problem for many Americans as we see people being diagnosed with long COVID.
Concerns are growing over the amount of staff necessary to process renewal paperwork. Despite the Biden administration giving states a year to process residents, most won’t have that luxury when congressional funds run out after the end of the public emergency. Additionally, most states have plans to send out renewal packets via mail, which typically go to wrong addresses or unreturned.
During his visit to University of Tampa, President Biden expressed that “Too many Americans lay in bed at night, staring at the ceiling, wondering, “What happens if I get sick,” and this worry will only be increased when the public emergency ends and millions lose healthcare.
Here’s what you need to know to help make sure you won’t lose coverage if you still qualify and other options if you don’t.
Pennsylvania’s Plan for Residents
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, there will be a process for renewal and options made available for those who no longer meet the eligibility requirements. Everyone will have a different renewal date so be sure to stay on the lookout for your packet in the mail. To combat the predictions of Americans abruptly losing health insurance, individuals will start receiving renewal packets 90 days before it’s due to provide ample time for completion. There are a few way you can complete your renewal packet:
- By mail– Complete and return the forms by mailing them back in the provided envelope
- Online– Complete your renewal online in COMPASS
- Telephone– Call 1-866-550-4355 to talk to a customer service representative
- In-Person– Complete and submit your renewal in person at any local county assistance office
For more information and/or assistance, visit Pennsylvania Department of Human Services at: https://www.dhs.pa.gov/PHE/Pages/PHE-FAQs.aspx