R.I. will restart Medicaid renewals April 1

Updated at 12:43 p.m.

PROVIDENCE – The state will restart Medicaid renewals on April 1 and will stagger them into next year to help ensure a smoother process, Gov. Daniel J. McKee announced Thursday.

States suspended the annual Medicaid renewal process and held continuous enrollment throughout the federal public health emergency declared during the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials said they are estimating between 25,000 and 30,000 Rhode Islanders currently on Medicaid will lose the coverage once renewals start.

As a result of new federal legislation, all states must once again begin annual eligibility renewals for all Medicaid enrollees. The state has 12 months to complete this process for the more than 350,000 Rhode Islanders currently enrolled in Medicaid.

“Our administration is committed to working with a broad variety of partners across state government and within our local communities to help impacted Rhode Islanders get the information they need to participate in the renewal process,” McKee said.

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The 12-month timeline is the one recommended by the federal government, said Medicaid Program Director Kristin Sousa, which also sets a monthly limit on renewals, allowing the state to renew one ninth of people on Medicaid each month. The first group to go through the renewal process will be the group of people who were set to go through it back in 2020, before the federal regulation halted the renewals. After that, the remaining people on Medicaid will all go through the process over the next year.

The only exception are children and families with children, who will not go through the renewal process until December 2023.

“There are Rhode Islanders who may need support through this process because they enrolled in Medicaid for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic and will experience the renewal process for the first time. While those who received Medicaid prior to the pandemic may need some refreshers about how to complete their renewals,” said Sousa.

The Medicaid renewal process will be led by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, the Department of Human Service and HealthSource RI.

“Over the last few years, our state has been able to reach its lowest uninsured rate ever because of a successful whole-of-government effort to enroll eligible Rhode Islanders,” said said Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos. “By continuing to work together with community partners through the renewal process, we’ll ensure that Rhode Islanders who still qualify can retain the health coverage they need without skipping a beat.”

HealthSource RI, the state’s health insurance marketplace, is taking several steps to assist people who will lose Medicaid coverage over the year.

A new HealthSource RI program will give eligible people transitioning off of Medicaid two months of premium assistance, with some individuals and families who will also be automatically enrolled in the state marketplace. Eligibility will be determined based on household income and size.

About six out of seven HealthSource RI are eligible for federal premium tax credits which bring down the monthly cost of coverage and HealthSource RI Director Lindsay Lang said she expects these tax credits to be available to eligible people getting off Medicaid.

Out of the almost 30,000 people estimated to lose Medicaid coverage, Lang said they are expecting between 600 and 1,400 people per month will be automatically enrolled in an HealthSource RI plan, in addition to 100 to 300 people that will be eligible for the premium assistance.

Medicaid enrollees will receive a letter and e-mail from the state this week that will outline the steps of the renewal process. Multiple notices will follow the first one, reminding individuals to update their information, notifying them of receipt of information, and lastly updating them on their status.

Those who cannot be passively renewed will be required to submit required documentation to verify their continued eligibility. Those individuals will be broken down into monthly renewals beginning April 1, with the last group of renewals beginning in March 2024.

“The most important thing you can do is update your information and wait for additional information,” Sousa said.

(Update: Story updated with more details on enrollment process and comments)