Estimated 12,000 Kansans mistakenly kicked off Medicaid due to eligibility processing glitch

Kansas officials say Medicaid expansion would have protected some from dismissal

By: - September 27, 2023 8:31 am
Christine Osterlund, deputy chief of operations for Kansas' Medicaid program, joined U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids and Gov. Laura Kelly at a news conference to raise awareness about a challenging application process for thousands of Kansans who might lose KanCare coverage. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

Christine Osterlund, Kansas Department of Health and Environment's deputy secretary for Medicaid, said computer system woes caused 12,000 adults and children to be mistakenly dropped from Medicaid this year during the process of reviewing eligibility in aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Kansas administrators of the Medicaid program estimate 12,000 adults or children eligible for the health coverage program were stripped of benefits due to problems with processing renewals.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said more than two-dozen states, including Kansas, failed to conduct renewal assessments properly and consequently disenrolled too many people. About 500,000 in the United States should have been allowed to maintain coverage, but were excluded by states and territories as a result of the eligibility review shortcomings.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sounded an alarm Aug. 30 that some state computer systems were inappropriately disenrolling people, even when the state had information indicating the person remained eligible.

Christine Osterlund, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s deputy secretary for agency integration and Medicaid, said the issue involved up to 12,000 lower-income or disabled individuals among 81,000 removed from Medicaid this year in Kansas. During the COVID-19 pandemic, states were authorized to suspend eligibility assessments. The process of recalibrating who could stay in state-federal health coverage program has been referred to as unwinding.

KDHE paused discontinuances in August and September to make certain corrective actions were effective, Osterlund said.

Problems in Kansas and other states arose because auto-renewals were performed across entire households, instead of addressing individual eligibility of each person in a household. One consequence was children were disenrolled because a parent no longer qualified.

“The state of Kansas is working on a remedy to meet the newly stated requirements,” Osterlund said. “System and manual workarounds have been implemented to address CMS’ concerns until a permanent solution can be implemented.”

HHS released a 50-state report last week showing Kansas’ disenrollment problem involved 10,000 to 49,000 adults or children. KDHE officials said the report was “misleading” because it applied a numerical range to those mistakenly disenrolled when the number was approximately 12,000.

Medicaid enrollment losses have been significant in 10 states, including Kansas, that declined to expand eligibility for the program. Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, has sought to broaden access to Medicaid, but Republican leaders in the Kansas Legislature have undermined expansion efforts for a decade. Each of Kansas’ neighboring states — Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma — have taken the step to expand Medicaid.

“If Kansas were a Medicaid expansion state, more individuals would have coverage reinstated as our eligibility standards would be higher,” Osterlund said.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International.