Medicaid covers nearly a third of RI population

MM Curator summary


The pandemic has surged RI enrollment.


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The number of Rhode Islanders enrolled in Medicaid has grown by more than 40,000 people since the federal government stopped states from terminating benefits at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the start of this month, there were 332,617 Rhode Islanders receiving public health insurance, up from 292,038 at the end of February 2020, when the coronavirus began spreading in the state, according to the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

The federal moratorium on Medicaid terminations is scheduled to continue through the end of this year, at which point the state projects Medicaid enrollment will exceed 349,000 people, or nearly a third of the state’s population.

Neighboring states have seen a similar increase in Medicaid enrollment during the pandemic, Health and Human Services officials said in testimony to General Assembly fiscal analysts last week.

The state and federal government share the cost of insuring Medicaid enrollees, and increased federal assistance during the pandemic has more than offset the state’s cost from insuring more people.

Due mostly to increased federal payments that were not assumed when lawmakers passed this year’s budget in December, the state projects a $42-million surplus in the Medicaid budget for the year ending June 30. 

What happens when the moratorium ends is not entirely clear.

The Biden administration has said it intends to maintain the moratorium through the end of this year, state Medicaid Director Benjamin Shaffer told fiscal analysts Friday.

However, he noted that the “last guidance from [the Center for Medicaid Services] on how states could restart termination and renewal activity” came from the Trump administration.

“Our caseload testimony assumes that guidance will remain in force, but it is possible that the Biden administration will modify the guidance,” Shaffer said.

The way the state removes ineligible people from the Medicaid rolls has generated controversy in the past.

When the UHIP public benefits computer system failed upon launch five years ago, one problem was a backlog in Medicaid terminations that took months to work through.

The ACLU sued the state in federal court, arguing that low-income enrollees were not given adequate notice of the termination or a chance to contest it.

The state settled the case and agreed to provide “timely and adequate advance notice prior to terminating MPP benefits.”

Shaffer wrote that the state estimates it will “take a full year to catch up with renewals and terminations.”

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On Twitter: @PatrickAnderso_


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