Enrollment ticking up in Missouri’s expanded Medicaid program, but rollout still rocky


MM Curator summary

[MM Curator Summary]: About 65% of the projected enrollment for expansion is in, but long application delays are still challenging.


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Patient Stephen Leach (center) is brought into the in the emergency room by paramedic Joe Steltenpohl (right) at Christian Hospital on Wednesday, July 31, 2013. Christian Hospital has the busiest emergency department in the St. Louis area. The hospital is doubling the size of it’s emergency room and eliminating the need for the over flow rooms in the hallway with curtains for walls like the one Leach is being seen in. Photo By David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

David Carson

Kurt Erickson

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri has enrolled nearly 65% of the people it projected would qualify for an expanded Medicaid program, potentially putting the state on track to meet a goal set when voters approved the expansion two years ago.

According to the Department of Social Services, which oversees the MO HealthNet program, 178,000 people have signed up for the federally backed health insurance program for low-income Americans.

When voters approved the expansion, it was estimated that 275,000 would be eligible for the coverage.

But the rollout, which began in October, continues to be rocky.

Nearly 60,000 people are waiting for their applications to be approved and that wait time has stretched beyond the 100-day mark, said Kim Evans, director of family services at the Department of Social Services.

At a meeting of the state’s Medicaid oversight panel Wednesday, Evans said that processing times will drop to 45 days at the end of July and 30 days by the end of August. In March, waiting times were upward of 70 days.

Evans said giving workers raises and offering overtime pay and other incentives for employees who are tasked with the applications will help lower the time it takes to process an application.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” Evans said Wednesday.

The shorter waiting time also was good news to Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, a committee member.

“I think that’s great,” Schupp said.

Before the voter approved expansion, the Medicaid program did not cover adults without children. Coverage through MO HealthNet is now available to all Missourians with incomes below 138% of the federal poverty level, or about $18,800 per year for an individual.

MO HealthNet Director Todd Richardson said the budget for the program is “positive” heading into a new fiscal year beginning July 1.

“Overall, we are very, very pleased,” Richardson told the committee. “This is certainly the best budget we’ve had since I’ve been director.”

The $10.1 billion plan, which has not yet been signed by Gov. Mike Parson, would boost nursing home reimbursement rates by $200 million, which could help boost the pay for front-line workers at the facilities.

Another $90 million was added to the budget for reimbursing medical providers.

Both of those adjustments are expected to go into effect on July 1, affecting the more than 974,000 people who are covered by the program.

The upcoming spending plan marks the first full year the state will operate under an expanded Medicaid program that was approved by voters after years of resistance from the Republican-led Legislature.

The expansion went online in October, but frustrations have mounted for applicants who are waiting to become eligible for the health care benefits.


Clipped from: https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/enrollment-ticking-up-in-missouri-s-expanded-medicaid-program-but-rollout-still-rocky/article_1d4469cb-29dd-5cdb-8951-5f8bcf59bc7d.html